March 11, 2009

Harper moves to revive Anti-Terrorism Act

CANADA - Stephen Harper's Conservative government is moving to restore extraordinary police and judicial powers dropped from the federal Anti-Terrorism Act two years ago, that will allow police to arrest Canadians just for suspicion and force them to testify.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson gave parliamentary notice yesterday that he will bring in legislation to renew police powers of preventive arrest in cases where a terrorist act is 'perceived' to be imminent.

The bill, which could be introduced in the Commons as early as tomorrow, is also expected to reinstate investigative hearings in which people believed to have knowledge of terrorist activity can be compelled to testify before a judge.

The provisions were part of the anti-terror legislation rushed through Parliament in late 2001, in the wake of the September 11th attacks and George W. Bush's Patriot Act, a key part of Bush Administration's War on Terrorism.

The arrest and hearing provisions lapsed under a five-year sunset clause in 2007 when the Liberal opposition refused to vote for their continuance.

Opponents of the bill say the ability to arrest people on suspicion (without any proof whatsoever) has been useless in preventing terrorism from happening and has been used instead to harass Muslim 'suspects' and is essentially "legalized racial profiling".

The Conservatives will need opposition support to pass the bill.

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