Canada's Parliament scraps 2 anti-terror measures

Measures empower arrest of suspects for three days without charge and compelling those with knowledge of terror activity to testify.

terrorist 88 (photo credit: )
terrorist 88
(photo credit: )
Two anti-terror measures adopted as part of Canada's response to the Sept. 11 terror attacks will expire Thursday after opposition lawmakers agreed they were an unnecessary infringement on civil liberties. The measures empower authorities to arrest and detain suspects for three days without charge and to compel individuals with knowledge of terrorist activity to testify before a judge. Neither has ever been applied. Prime Minister Stephen Harper of the Conservative Party wanted to extend them three years, but his minority government needed the opposition's support. The motion was defeated 159-124 in the House of Commons Tuesday after all three opposition parties voted against it. "These two provisions especially have done nothing to fight against terrorism, have not been helpful and have continued to create some risk for civil liberties," Liberal leader Stephane Dion said. The vote came just days after Canada's Supreme Court struck down a law allowing the government to detain foreign terror suspects indefinitely while the courts review their deportation orders. Human rights activists hailed Friday's ruling as a victory for those who believe fundamental rights have been curtailed in the name of national security after Sept. 11. That law and the two measures expiring Thursday were all part of a sweeping package of antiterrorism laws passed weeks after the 2001 attacks on New York and Washington. Although some abstained, most Liberal Party lawmakers voted Tuesday against extending the measures, although the opposition party was in power when the laws were passed. Harper predicted the Liberals will be defeated in the next election because of their refusal to back his proposed extension. "This issue is not going to go away. It's going to haunt the Liberal Party from now until the election campaign," Harper said. That campaign could begin as early as this spring. "Any party that doesn't take the national security of Canadians seriously will never be chosen by Canadians to form the government of Canada." Ahead of the vote, relatives of Canadians killed in the Sept. 11 attacks appealed to lawmakers to retain the security measures. Maureen Basnicki, whose husband, Ken, was one of 24 Canadians killed in the attack on the World Trade Center, said a rejection would seriously diminish Canada's capacity to fight terrorism. "We want to protect other Canadians from the devastation that we experienced," Basnicki said. Stockwell Day, Canada's public safety minister, said Canada was sending the wrong message to allies and potential terrorists. Although the provisions were never used, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police was planning to use the investigative hearing provision to compel 15 individuals to testify about their knowledge of Canada's worst terrorist attack - the 1985 downing of Air India Flight 182, which claimed 329 lives.