Cross Country Checkup

Is the government's proposed anti-terror bill what Canadians need to stay safe?

Fighting terror: The government's bill before Parliament gives CSIS and police new powers to track and combat would-be terrorists. The opposition parties say it goes too far, and they want limits placed on those powers. What do you think?
RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson, left, and Ottawa Police Chief Charles Bordeleau speak about the shooting at the National War Memorial at a press conference at the RCMP Headquarters in Ottawa on Thursday, October 23, 2014. (Patrick Doyle/Canadian Press)

Fighting terror: The government's Bill C-51, now before Parliament, would give CSIS and police new powers to track and combat would-be terrorists.

The opposition parties say it goes too far and they want limits placed on those powers.

What do you think?  Do CSIS and the police need better tools to track and combat would-be terrorists?  Does the government's proposed anti-terror bill strike a balance between security and civil liberties?

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I think it would be fair to say that the killings in Quebec and on Parliament Hill last October, followed by the Charlie Hebdo shootings in France last month, have probably contributed to boosting Canadians' concerns about security to a level higher than at any other time since 9/11.

It is under these circumstances that the government has introduced to Parliament its proposed anti-terror law called Bill C-51.

The bill proposes to give more powers to CSIS and police involved in anti-terrorism activities. The powers include making arrests of suspects easier; making promotion of terrorism illegal, including websites; allowing CSIS to disrupt or interfere with individuals whom they believe to be engaged in planning terrorism; and finally, allowing court proceedings in some terrorism cases to be sealed.

Despite broad public support for a new law to tighten security, the opposition says the bill goes too far in two important aspects.  They say the definition of what constitutes terror activity is too broad, and could catch legitimate political protesters. And, both opposition parties say the law must include some form of oversight to ensure CSIS and the police do not overstep their bounds.

Some say the existing laws against terror remain solid and useful, but law enforcement agencies need more resources to make them truly effective.

Whenever any government undertakes to tighten security and give more powers to law enforcement agencies, the concern is always for the trade-off with basic individual freedoms and civil liberties. The government says Bill C-51 achieves that balance and the object is to protect the freedoms of Canadians from those whose activities would do exactly the opposite. Both the NDP and the Liberals do not agree.

We want to know what you think?

Do you think our security and intelligence laws need to be strengthened? Are you concerned about how new laws might impinge on personal freedom? What is the best way to balance security concerns and personal freedom? What about oversight it necessary and how would it be structured?

Our question today: "Is the government's proposed anti-terror bill what Canada needs to stay safe?"

I'm Rex Murphy  ...on CBC Radio One ...and on Sirius XM, satellite radio channel 169 ...this is Cross Country Checkup.


Jason Kenney
Minister of National Defence and Minister for Multiculturalism
Twitter: @jkenney

Irwin Cotler
Special Counsel on Human Rights and International Justice for the Liberal party and MP for Mount Royal in Montreal. From 2003 to 2006 in Paul Martin's government, Mr. Cotler was Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. He is a past professor of law at McGill University and the director of its Human Rights Program.

Thomas Mulcair
Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada.
Twitter: @ThomasMulcair

Wesley Wark
Visiting Professor at the University of Ottawa's Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. Engaged on a research project on changing perceptions of the terrorist threat in a Canadian context from 9/11 to the present. He testified to Parliament on the original provisions of the 2001 Anti-Terrorism Act, on the Combating Terrorism Bill and on the recent extension of CSIS powers contained in Bill C-44.


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Toronto Star

Angus Reid