As the federal government weighs changes to anti-terrorism laws in the wake of last week’s fatal attacks on two Canadian Forces personnel, Justice Minister Peter McKay acknowledges there are already “robust” laws on the books.
"There are already some pretty robust measures that we can use — [sections of the Criminal Code] 83.3 and 810 do allow for the type of preventive … interventions — if I can use that word — for the police," he told reporters Wednesday morning before Conservative caucus.
Section 83.3 of the Criminal Code allows for preventive arrests, among other measures, when police “believe on reasonable grounds that a terrorist activity will be carried out.” Section 810 deals with peace bonds.
Question of 'thresholds'
On Monday, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson suggested to a Senate committee that he would like to see the thresholds for the application of these sections to be lowered.
MacKay would only say his department is working in concert with the Department of Public Safety to review the laws. "We're doing it in a way that is really focused on not only thresholds, but the practical application of the current sections, and whether they're sufficient," he said.
Paul Copeland, a human rights lawyer, argues the government already had all the tools it needed to stop Martin Couture-Rouleau, who drove down and killed a soldier last week in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que.
"In my view that particular provision [Section 83.3] could have been applied and should have been applied to Mr. Couture-Rouleau, and it probably would have stopped him from doing what he did," he said in an interview with CBC’s The Current.
May cut judges out of loop
Earlier in the in the day, former public safety minister Stockwell Day warned he's hearing the government may try to eliminate the requirement that a judge sign off on such orders, giving discretion solely to the minister of public safety.
"One of the provisions I'm hearing about, I don't know if it's accurate yet, is there may be a provision for a minister like myself to sign for [preventive] arrest, and not having it countersigned by a judge," he said in an interview on CBC Radio’s The Current.
"I've always appreciated the balance [of both judge and minister signing] for preventive arrest and wiretaps … I would take a close look at that if a judge's [signature] is no longer required," Day added.
Without getting into specifics, MacKay seemed to dismiss that idea, "We're not going to upset that balance that requires police to make that very important evidentiary determination."
"I always would come down on the side of judicial oversight before you would make any interventions,” MacKay added.
MacKay also said the government is looking for ways to crack down on those who encourage terrorist acts online. "There's no question that the type of material that is used often to recruit, to incite, and the word I don't particularly like … but, glorification," he said, adding he's looking closely at legislation in the United Kingdom on this topic.
Day believes the legislation will “talk about things like, 'those who support calls on terrorists to attack Canadians or to kill Canadians, those who support groups who are calling for attacks on Canadians.’”
"I think you're going to see language moving into that area. In a case like these terrible tragedies where you have somebody on their network calling for supporting those who are saying, 'Let's kill Canadians,' then there can possibly be an opportunity for preventive arrest. And I think most Canadians would agree with that type of provision,” he added.