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The Anti-terrorism Act and Faith Communities

Talk by Hon. David Kilgour

Member of Parliament for Edmonton Southeast and

Secretary of State (Asia Pacific)

The Church of the Redeemer, 162 Bloor St. W.

Toronto, ON

February 2, 2002  

Ladies and Gentlemen,

To the astonishment of many, the author Paul Marshall pointed out several years ago that there are probably more Christians being martyred for their faith across the world currently that at any point since AD 33. The estimate of those killed in the 20th century alone is more than 35 million – about 163,000 per year at current levels. Believers of many other faiths, of course, are also being attacked or worse in very large numbers as well in various lands, so all religions have a common interest in reducing hate crimes.

It is central to all monotheistic faiths that life is sacred and that people should not be persecuted for their religious convictions. Our own Charter of Rights and Freedoms, among other such  legislation across the democratic world, makes this point explicitly.

So what are Canada’s faith communities to make of the Anti-terrorism Act? There will perhaps be as many viewpoints here as there are persons present this morning. Before the final amendments to C-36, I understand  concerns were voiced about features of the measure by the Islamic Congress of Canada, the Canadian Arab Federation, the Conference of Canadian Catholic Bishops, and some First Nations’ groups. The Canadian Jewish Congress was reportedly supportive.

Let me therefore set out  briefly some of the major features of the legislation as it was finally passed by the House and Senate.

Major Features

  The legislation seeks to identify, prosecute, convict and punish terrorists more effectively  specifically by:

­                making it an offense knowingly to participate in, facilitate, or contribute to the activities of a terrorist group,

­                cutting off financial support for terrorists by making it a crime knowingly to collect or give funds to carry out terrorism.

“Terrorist activity” is defined to mean a violation of the provisions of the various UN conventions on terrorism, or an act done in whole or part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, and with the intention of intimidating the public with regard to its security, or compelling someone to do or refrain from doing an act, and is also one that intentionally causes death or serious bodily harm.

An interpretive clause indicates that an expression of political, religious or ideological beliefs alone is not a “terrorist activity” unless it is intended to intimidate the public or compel a government and intentionally causes  death or serious harm to people.

The definition s.83.01 (1.1) intends to make it clear that disrupting an essential service during a strike or protest is not a terrorist activity unless it is intended to cause serious harm or death.

Stronger Investigative Tools

The range of new and stronger investigative tools include

­                For wiretaps, judges can grant authorizations for longer periods and without being convinced that it is a last resort.

­                With the consent of the Attorney General, suspected terrorists can be arrested “preventatively” if a peace officer can first obtain a warrant; if urgent circumstances exist, the suspected terrorist can be arrested without a warrant as long as the suspect is brought before a judge within 24 hours of the arrest.

­                Individuals with information relevant to the ongoing investigation of a terrorist crime can be required to appear before a judge to provide that information, as long as the consent of the AG has been obtained.  For such witnesses, their information cannot be used against them in any criminal proceeding.

Hate Crimes and Propaganda

Our national values of respect, dignity, equality, diversity and fairness now require re-enforcement. Accordingly, the act:

­                Allows the court to order the deletion of hate propaganda from Internet sites, although one will have the opportunity to convince a court that it is not hate propaganda,

­                a new offence of mischief motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on religion, race, colour or national or ethnic origin is created.


The Anti-terrorism Act safeguards include:

­                all provincial and federal ministers responsible for policing must report yearly on the use of preventative detention and investigative hearings,

­                there will be a parliamentary review of the legislation in 3 years,

­                the preventative detention and investigative hearing powers will expire after 5 years unless both the House and the Senate extend either or both for up to five more years,

­                the new provisions are clearly defined to be aimed at terrorists and not at any community group or faith. Legitimate political activities and protests are protected through the precise definitions of terrorist activity.

­                the process for adding a group to the list of terrorist organizations has a number of protections, including provisions for removal, judicial review and safeguards to address cases of mistaken identity.


  The respected law professor, Anne Bayefsky, told the Senate committee considering this legislation:

“ Terrorism is an extreme violation of human rights. That violation of human rights is our problem as Canadians.  There is an apt saying that evil triumphs when good people do nothing.  Our responsibility is to defend human rights, and to do so by taking the kind of actions that are in this bill.”

  My colleague and friend, Irwin Colter, also a law professor, has concluded about  C-36:

“Counter terrorism law involves the protection of the most fundamental of rights: the right to life, liberty and the security of the person...We are not dealing with your ordinary domestic criminal, but with transnational superterrorists – Nuremberg crimes and Nuremberg criminals, hostis humanis generis, the enemies of mankind.”

In short, I believe the legislation, while obviously not perfect, is a legitimate attempt to deal with a very serious problem in a responsible manner.

Thank you.

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