Monday, 23 February 2015

ANTI-TERRORISM LAW: Is it abusive to innocent people?

Before I take you into the main part of this article, I will tell you something of my own role in fighting terrorism. In 1975 while I addressed the Fifth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders at the UN Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, I spoke of the increase of terrorism world-wide. After my speech, I was asked to negotiate with the Palestinian Liberation Organization’s representative to the United Nations about Canada’s concern that the Palestinians would commit terrorist acts at the Olympic Games being held in Montreal, Canada like the Palestinians did in Munich in 1972. I was successful in getting a commitment from the PLO that they would not sanction any further acts of terrorism in future Olympic Games. The PLO kept its word to me.   

I addressed further UN conferences on the subject of terrorism in Caracas (1980) Milan, (1985) Cairo (1995 and Bangkok (2005). This doesn’t make me an expert on terrorism but I am well cognizant on terrorism and criminal law.  

I am very much in favour of laws that fight terrorism but I like many other citizens in Canada and other nations, want to be sure that such laws don’t infringe on the rights of innocent citizens. For example, many years ago when home grown terrorists in the province of Quebec were creating havoc and in one instance, the murder of a politician, the late Canadian prime minister, Pierre Trudeau enforced the War Measures Act (suspension of basic civil rights) It gave the Canadian government and the police almost unlimited authority to seize anyone and anything that they believed was involved in terrorist acts. I contacted the prime minister and congratulated him for his efforts to stop the terrorism going on in Quebec. He told me that he was grateful for the support he received by bringing in the War Measures Act. Unfortunately, some police officers in Canada used that Act to make improper arrests and seizures not related in any manner whatsoever to terrorism. We don’t want a repeat of that kind of police abuse ever happening again especially with respect to a proposed Canadian law which comes under the heading of Bill C-51, the Anti-terrorism Act.  Its purpose is to make amendments to other various Acts that is some way or another is related in part to terrorism.                              

The Bill includes various segments to it such as an Act To Enact the Security of Canada, the Information Sharing Act, the Secure Air Travel Act, to Amending the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act, and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts in Canada. 

Steven Blaney, the minister of Public Safety  and Emergency Preparedness said in the House of Commons on February 18, 2015;

“I rise in the House today to deliver on our government's firm commitment to fight and protect Canadians from jihadist terrorists who would destroy the very principles that make Canada, our country, a nation of freedom and democracy that is the envy of the world. The international jihadist movement has declared war on Canada and our allies. As we have seen, terrorists are targeting Canadians simply because they despise our society and the values it represents. Let us not forget the October twenty attack in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu and the attack that happened right here in our national capital. Those incidents are etched in our hearts and in our memory and show us how serious these issues are for us as a country. These attacks, like the recent attacks against our allies in Sydney, Australia, Paris, France, and Copenhagen and Denmark, speak to the violence that can be committed by determined terrorists. These events reinforced our government's determination to take action.” unquote

He also says in his web site; “In line with measures taken by our allies, our Government is taking additional action to help our law enforcement and national security agencies stop those who promote terrorism, including attacks on Canadians. We are also taking action to prevent terrorist travel and thwart efforts to use Canada as a recruiting ground, and prevent planned attacks on our soil.” unquote

Canada and other nations are plagued by homegrown terrorists who mimic ISIS and Al-Qaeda forms of terrorism when they commit terroristic crimes in  our own countries so it is necessary to bring in laws to thwart their activities and bring them to justice.

Bill C-51 is sponsored by the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. The Conservative government tabled this anti-terrorism Bill on February 8, 2015, three months after the fatal attacks on Cpl. Nathan Cirillo in Ottawa. Ontario and Warrant Officer, Patrice Vincent in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. Both homegrown terrorists who committed these murders were subsequently shot dead.

In Canada’s Criminal Code, (which is applied all over Canada) we have laws that are directed at such criminals. Section 83 of that Code states in part that anyone who commits any act of terrorism for a political, religious or ideological purpose in or outside of Canada will be subjected to the severe  penalties if any of them causes serious injury or death, endangers a person’s life, causes a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or any segment of the public, causes substantial property damage, whether to public or private property, if causing such damage is likely to result in the conduct or harm referred to in any of the above, causes serious interference with or serious disruption of an essential service, facility or system, whether public or private, other than as a result of advocacy, protest, dissent or stoppage of work that is not intended to result in the conduct or harm and the aforementioned crimes includes a conspiracy, attempt or threat to commit any such act or omission, or of being an accessory after the fact or counselling in relation to any such act or omission all of which are punishable by law.

However, the Code also states that but for greater certainty, it does not include an act or omission that is committed during an armed conflict and that, at the time and in the place of its commission, is in accordance with customary international law or conventional international law applicable to the conflict, or the activities undertaken by military forces of a state in the exercise of their official duties, to the extent that those activities are governed by other rules of international law. Also for greater certainty, the expression of a political, religious or ideological thought, belief or opinion does not come within paragraph (b) of the definition “terrorist activity” in subsection unless it constitutes an act or omission that satisfies the criteria of terrorism stated in the Code. A suicide bombing is an act that comes within the definition “terrorist activity” stated in the Code although such a terrorist can hardly be punished unless of course the terrorist doesn’t set off the bomb.

Part 3 of the proposed Bill amends the Criminal Code with respect to recognizances to keep the peace relating to a terrorist activity or a terrorism offence, for a period of not more than 12 months. However, if the judge is also satisfied that the person was convicted previously of a terrorism offence, the judge may order that the person enter into the recognizance for a period of not more than two years. The Bill als0 provide for new thresholds, authorizes a judge to impose sureties and require a judge to consider whether it is desirable to include in a recognizance conditions regarding passports and specified geographic areas. With respect to all recognizances to keep the peace, the amendments also allow hearings to be conducted by video conference and orders to be transferred to a judge in a territorial division other than the one in which the order was made and increase the maximum sentences for breach of those recognizances.

Obviously, a recognizance to keep the peace would not be made available to any wannabe terrorists who are planning or participating in a terrorist act.  It further amends the Criminal Code to provide for an offence of knowingly advocating or promoting the commission of terrorism offences in general.

The peace bond would also not be available to someone who encourages others to go to places where terrorism flourishes because under the proposed amendments to the Criminal Code, those acts are also deemed to be criminal. 

Bill C-51 with respect to Section 2(b) includes activities such as changing or unduly influencing any government by force or by unlawful means. The use of the words, “any government” in my opinion means any government in Canada, be it federal, provincial or municipal.  

It is the words, “or by unlawful means” that concerns me. This would mean that protesters on a street peacefully advocating a change in government could be arrested and charged as terrorists if the protesters haven’t been given municipal permission to hold a protest on any given street.

However, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees everyone the right to free speech. This doesn’t mean that we can advocate the overthrow of our governments by force. It does however, does it guarantee our right to advocate the overthrow of our governments by political means.

It does give us the right to publicly advocate unhappy citizens in other countries to overthrow their dictatorial and barbaric governments in other countries.  That is because Section 2 0f the Interpretation Act says that lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression is permissible.

But how is the word, “unlawful” to be interpreted? Does in mean that unless the municipal government gives its permission to the protesters to protest on a street or other public area, they would be in a breach of the government’s ruling and that police could then justify calling all the protesters terrorists because they are advocating the overthrow of a foreign government that is run by a dictatorial thug such as the president of Syria? 

The police can arrest them for breaching the municipal ruling but the protesters could hardly be arrested as terrorists.

However, the law as proposed in Bill C51 also prohibits anyone from advocating a change in governments in other countries. As an example, it would mean that if you publicly suggest that fellow citizens should help rebels overtaking a regime in another country that is both non-democratic and barbaric, you might be subjected to arrest, conviction and punishment in Canada as a terrorist.

34. (1) A permanent resident or a foreign national is inadmissible on security grounds for

(b) engaging in or instigating the subversion by force of any  government; 

(f) being a member of an organization that there are reasonable grounds to believe engages, has engaged or will engage in acts referred to in paragraph (a), (b) or (c).
35. (1) A permanent resident or a foreign national is inadmissible on grounds of violating human or international rights for

(a) Committing an act outside Canada that constitutes an offence referred to in sections 4 to 7 of the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act;

This clearly means that no-one in Canada can engage or instigate a revolution in another country. This also means that if anyone living in Canada goes to Syria to help the rebels overthrow the current Syrian regime, they are breaking the law in Canada. However, when Canadian armed forces personnel are sent to Iraq to help train Iraqis how to fight ISIS terrorists, they are not breaking the law since their actions are approved by the government. 

Despite the above, our rights to our freedom of speech don’t actually deny us our right to say that we believe that a barbaric and undemocratic government should be overthrown.  Even our politicians are doing it.

Would anyone be breaking the law if he sent money to an organization that feeds citizens in a rebel-held town?  I doubt it.

Prime Minister Harper is extremely hopeful that he can equip Canada’s spy agency; Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) with vastly increased investigative powers so that they can battle home grown terrorism in Canada.

Canada's primary national intelligence service is responsible for collecting, analyzing, reporting and disseminating intelligence  with respect to threats to Canada's national security, and conducting operations, covert and overt, within Canada and abroad. What extra powers does Harper want CSIS to have?

The British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, (BCCLA) which is suing the federal government over its surveillance programs, released a statement saying: “Canada has utterly failed to respond to the urgent need for national security oversight and instead, proposes an unprecedented expansion of powers that will harm innocent Canadians and not increase our public safety.” The group says it’s especially concerned about the provision that will allow police to detain people who haven’t been charged with any crime for longer periods of time than is normally allowed under our current laws.

Quite frankly, I didn’t see anything in Bill C-51 that places person not charged with a crime detained for long periods of time. Obviously, suspects can be arrested and questioned before they are either charged with a crime or released as not having committed a crime or waiting for their first appearance in court.

This what the new law says with respect to detention of suspects.

“A peace officer may arrest a person without a warrant and cause the person to be detained in custody, in order to bring them before a provincial court judge   either (i) the grounds for laying an information referred to in paragraphs (2)(a) and (b) exist but, by reason of exigent circumstances, it would be impracticable to lay an information under subsection (2), or (ii) an information has been laid under subsection (2) and a summons has been issued; and (b) the peace officer suspects on reasonable grounds that the detention of the person in custody is likely to prevent a terrorist activity.”

Perhaps the BCCLA is probably referring to the words, “the detention of the person in custody is likely to prevent a terrorist activity.” and are of the opinion and probably right that the person will be held in custody longer than normal because of the fear that the suspect if released will commit a terrorist act. If the police wish to detain the suspect longer than normally done, they would obviously have to bring the suspect into court and ask permission from the judge to keep the suspect in custody.

The Defence Minister, Jason Kenny said that the changes in the Criminal Code doesn't give new powers to police or intelligence agencies but rather to judges, who, for example, can order the detention of a suspected terrorist for up to seven days before he is brought back to court for another extension. What is wrong with that?

Imagine if you will, the police arrest a terrorist suspect whom they believe is building bombs for suicide bombers but so far they haven’t found the location where his ready-made bombs are kept. After he is released, they lose track of him and he gives bombs that are actually completed to the suicide bombers.  Wouldn’t it have been better that instead of releasing him the day after he was arrested, he was kept in custody until at least seven days has passed thereby giving the police a better opportunity to find the location of his bombs? 

In the Interpretation part of this Act, it says in part;

“activity that undermines the security of Canada” means any activity, including any of the following activities, if it undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada.  

What is meant by territorial integrity? It means that all of Canada is to be kept complete.  

The Quebec Liberation Front) was a separatist and Marxist-Leninist paramilitary group in Quebec. It was a militantly supported the Quebec sovereignty movement and it was active between 1963 and 1970. It was regarded as a terrorist organization for its violent methods of action. It called for a socialist  insurrection against oppressors identified with "Anglo-Saxon" imperialism, the overthrow of the Quebec government, and the independence of Quebec from Canada. As such, those people in that group were definitely acting in a manner that can only be construed as trying to destroy the territorial integrity of Canada.

This raises an interesting question. Are those in Quebec who recently have been peacefully advocating the separation of Quebec from the rest of Canada to be considered terrorists since the territorial integrity of Canada would be breached if they were to be successful?  I think not because to be a terrorist, terroristic violence would have to be their means to achieve that end.

The Anti-terrorism Act is an Act to encourage and facilitate information sharing between Government of Canada institutions in order to protect Canada against activities that undermine the security of Canada. 

Its purpose is to inform various government bodies such as federal, provincial and municipal police forces along with CSIS of any terroristic activity going on in Canada. The Act clearly states that it does not include lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression. I presume that when it uses the words “artistic expression” includes people giving their opinions in the media and in blogs.

It is absolutely imperative that each of these forces and CSIS communicate with one another and share their information when it comes to terroristic activity planned or undertaken.  Here is an example in which that wasn’t done.

Air India Flight 182 was an Air India flight operating on the Montreal, CanadaLondon, UK. On 23 June 1985, this Boeing 747 was destroyed by a bomb at an altitude of 31,000 feet (9,400 m). It crashed into the Atlantic Ocean while in Irish airspace. It was the first bombing of a 747 jumbo jet. A total of 329 people were killed, including 268 Canadian citizens, 27 Britons, and 24 Indians. The majority of the victims were Canadian citizens of Indian ancestry. The incident was the largest mass murder in Canadian history

Canadian law enforcement determined that the main suspects in the bombing were members of the Sikh militant group called Babbar Khalsa. Though a handful of members were arrested and tried, Inderjit Singh Reyat, a Canadian national, remains the only person actually convicted of involvement in the bombing. Singh pleaded guilty in 2003 to manslaughter. He was sentenced to 15 years in prison for building the bombs that exploded aboard Flight 182 and at the Narita airport in Japan where two workers were killed. He is eligible for release after he serves only ten years.

The former Supreme Court Justice John Major  was commissioned to conduct a commission of inquiry. His report was completed and released on 17 June 2010. It concluded that a “cascading series of errors” by the government of Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) had allowed the terrorist attack to take place.

The Canadian government had been warned by the Indian government about the possibility of terrorist bombs aboard Air India flights in Canada, and over two weeks before the crash, CSIS reported to theRCMP that the potential threat to Air India as well as Indian missions in Canada was high. It is beyond me why the RCMP didn’t arrest the suspects they suspected may have been involved and search the plane before it took off. That inaction on their part in my opinion can only be described as an outrageous blunder.

Another blunder was undertaken by CSIS when they stupidly erased 156 wiretap tapes after the terrorists had become the primary suspects in the bombing. They should have given the RCMP copies of those tapes.  If they had, there would have been more convictions and a greater charge laid against Inderjit Singh Reyat than just a 15- year sentence he got for perjury. He would be serving the rest of his natural life in prison. 

The case exemplifies the need for sharing information between the policing bodies in Canada.

Of course, there can be pitfalls in shared information. The Maher Arar debacle is a good example where shared information resulted in a terrible screw up in Arar’s case.  He is a telecommunications engineer with dual Syrian and Canadian citizenship who has resided in Canada since 1987.

Arar was detained during a layover at John F. Kennedy International Airport in September 2002 on his way home to Canada from a family vacation in Tunis. He was held without charges in solitary confinement in the United States for nearly two weeks, questioned, and denied meaningful access to a lawyer which that latter is contrary to the rights of everyone in the US. The US government suspected him of being a member of Al Qaeda and deported him, not to Canada, his current home and the passport on which he was travelling, but to Syria, even though its government is known to use torture. When he arrived in Syria, he was tortured in attempts to get information from his that the CIA was looking for.

The Syrian government later stated that Arar was “completely innocent.” A Canadian commission publicly cleared Arar of any links to terrorism, and the government of Canada later settled out of court with Arar. He received C$10.5 million and Prime Minister Stephen Harper formally apologized to Arar for Canada's role in his "terrible ordeal"

How did this blunder come about? The United States claimed that the RCMP had provided them with a list of suspicious persons that included Arar. It was also discovered that Canadian consular officials knew that Arar was in custody in the United States but did not believe that he would be removed. The Canadian government maintains that the decision to remove Arar to Syria was made by American officials alone. Canadian officials apparently told US officials Arar was no longer a resident of Canada. The New York Times reported, “In July 2002, the Mounted Police learned that Mr. Arar and his family were in Tunisia, and incorrectly concluded that they had left Canada permanently.”

As you can see, the shared information between the Canadian and American authorities was all wrong. Trying to justify the combined actions of the RCMP and the American authorities is not unlike putting a pig in your home and then hoping its excrement can be used as a deodorant. 

The RCMP has always touted their position in the realm of police forces as being Canada’s finest police force. Unfortunately, the RCMP is better known by Canadians as bunglers who seem to bumble their way through this century as they did in the last century. In the latter part of the last century they were supposed to be the organization that searched for terrorists. They were so deficient; they couldn’t even find their own socks if they were wearing them.

In their feeble efforts to protect Canadian from terrorists, they continuously broke the law. This resulted in the formation of the Royal Commission on Inquiry Into Certain Activities of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

The Commission learned of a series of more than 400 illegal break-ins by the RCMP in the 1970s. In 1974, RCMP Security Service Corporal Robert Samson was arrested at a hospital after a failed bombing. The bomb exploded while in his hands, causing him to lose some fingers and tearing his eardrums  while he was trying to place  the bomb at the house of Sam Steinberg, founder of Steinberg Foods in Montreal. While this bombing was not sanctioned by the RCMP, at trial he announced that he had done “much worse” on behalf of the RCMP, and admitted he had been involved in one of the break-ins. On April 19, 1978, the Director of the RCMP criminal operations branch admitted that the RCMP had entered more than 400 premises without warrants since 1970.

Perhaps the best-remembered scandal, on the night of May 6, 1972, the RCMP Security Service burned down a barn owned by Paul Rose's (a separatist) mother in Sainte-Anne-de-la-Rochelle, Quebec. They believed that separatists were planning to meet with members of the Black Panthers from the United States. The arson came after they failed to convince a judge to allow them to wiretap the alleged meeting place.

Ex-Staff Sergeant Donald McCleery and ex-Sergeant Gilles Brunet met with senior officials of the Solicitor General and the Department of Justice, on 6 and 23 June 1977 and while at that meeting, they made allegations that other members of the RCMP Security Service had been involved in searches without warrants, unauthorized mail openings and the use of forged documents.

I was invited by that Royal Commission to appear before the Commissioners and give them my views as to what should be done with respect to the RCMP. I recommended that the RCMP should no longer search for terrorists and that that task should be given to an organization that should be created for that purpose.  Not too long afterwards, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) was created and to this day, their purpose is to search for terrorists. They are part of that never-never world of the CIA, MI5 and Interpol.

Now there are fears that CSIS may be given more powers that they should have. I am not convinced that is so. In the Act is says in part;

“The Service (SCIS) shall not take measures to reduce a threat to the security of Canada if those measures will contravene a right or freedom guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or will be contrary to other Canadian law, unless the Service is authorized to take them by a warrant”  unquote

This means that CSIS, the RCMP or other police forces should not be hunting down protesters who are merely protesting for peaceful change in governments be they domestic or foreign.  

There are concerns that the Act will permit warrantless searches. Those concerns are legitimate however even the police can legitimately enter premises without a warrant if they strongly believe that certain items are about to be destroyed and will be destroyed if they don’t act immediately. Buy I don’t see that happening very often.

Changes are necessary in our methods of fighting terrorism and if the amendments in Bill C-51 can achieve its goal of successfully rooting out terrorists both foreign and domestics. then I am all for them. 

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