Canada

Justice minister to review changes to anti-terrorism law

The federal government will review a court ruling that struck down part of the Anti-terrorism Act and then decide if an appeal is necessary, Justice Minister Vic Toews says.

The federal government will review a court ruling that struck down part of the Anti-terrorism Act and thendecide if an appeal is necessary, Justice Minister Vic Toews says.

Toews wants to study the Oct. 24 ruling, which he acknowledged "fundamentally" changes the definition of terrorism under the Criminal Code. Whereas terrorism once meant an act of public intimidation that was specificallytied topolitical, religious or ideological purposes, the motivation may no longer matter.

Critics say the decision to strike out the part of the lawthat deals with an accused's political, religious or ideological motivation may actually make the prosecution's job easier.

Liberal Derek Lee believes the clause including motivation should stay, or else the net would be cast too wide.

"A bunch of fishermen on their fishing boat trying to protect their fishing territory could in fact offend the anti-terror provisions of the code," he argued.

A lawyer for one of the 18 Toronto-area men charged in this summer's alleged bomb plot is also worried about the impact ofthe decision.

Rocco Galati, the lawyer for Ahmad Ghany, saidthat by striking the motivation clause as unconstitutional, the court has actually made it easier for the Crown to get a conviction. He said the motivation clause "was one of the essential elements of the offence that the Crown had to prove in every case."

But Liberal MP Irwin Cotler said making the Crown prove the motivation was an unnecessary step and that "the legislation remains unaffected by that particular provision."

Ontario Superior Court Judge Douglas Rutherford severed the clause in the law dealing with ideological, religious or political motivation for illegal acts in the case against Mohammad Momin Khawaja, chargedwith alleged involvement in a suspected bomb plot in Britain.

Rutherford found that the legal definition of terrorist activity explicitly tied terrorism to criminal activity motivated by beliefs, and infringed on key freedoms guaranteed in the Charter of Rights.

Khawaja is the first person in Canada to be charged under the act. The prosecution says Khawaja's trial will go ahead in January.

With files from the Canadian Press