Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has brought anti-terrorism legislation to the table, and with serious implications for internet privacy and civil liberties. Specifically, the Anti-Terrorism Act would expand the powers of the Canadian Intelligence Service (CSIS), permit court officials to delete online content, and widen the scope that police officers have to detain individuals.
At a Toronto event and in the wake of two terrorist attacks in Canada, Harper explained that “Jihadi terrorism is one of the most dangerous enemies our world has ever faced.”
“It seeks to harm us here in Canada, in our cities and in our neighborhoods, through horrific acts like deliberately driving a car at a defenseless man or shooting a soldier in the back as he stands on guard at a War Memorial,” in reference to the recent deaths on Canadian soil.
The new law would give courts the power to remove online postings deemed to be “terrorist propaganda” — at least from websites using Canadian internet service providers; it would extend the length of time authorities can hold a suspected terrorist without charge from three to seven days; it would relax the threshold needed to keep suspected terrorists from boarding a plane; and it would grant government departments the authority to share sensitive personal information, including passport applications, or confidential commercial data, with law-enforcement agencies.
“We cannot tolerate this any more than we tolerate people that make jokes about bomb threats at airports,” Harper said. “Anyone engaging in that kind of activity is going to face the full force of the law in the future.”
Civil-liberties advocacy groups, however, have raised concerns over the measure. Micheal Vonn, policy director of the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association, said the new legislation could not only potentially harm innocent Canadians, but “impose a broad chill on legitimate political speech without enhancing public safety, and is likely unconstitutional.”
“New laws and new powers don’t necessarily guarantee security, but they can guarantee a shift away from democratic freedom,” said Sukanya Pillay, director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
Regardless, the bill is set to pass, given the majority that the Conservative Party maintains in Parliament.