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Police secure the scene of a shooting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday Oct.22, 2014. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Police secure the scene of a shooting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday Oct.22, 2014. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

Anti-terror bill to give agencies more authority to share private information Add to ...

Ottawa will give government departments and agencies explicit authority to share private or confidential commercial information in legislation to be introduced shortly after the Commons resumes sitting in late January – an attempt to make it easier to thwart terrorist attacks.

The legislation is being drawn up in response to two deadly attacks on Canadian soldiers on domestic soil, including a shooting in Parliament, that shook the country in October.

Sources familiar with the plans say a government review of the tragedies found problems that inhibit the free flow of useful information between departments and security agencies.

The changes would allow information submitted in passport applications and on the movement of items such as automatic weapons, GPS systems or controlled goods that could be used in terrorist attacks to be shared with Canadian security agencies.

Other measures Ottawa is preparing include reducing the threshold required to make preventive arrests or detentions of suspected extremists.

It is also planning a more robust government-financed campaign to thwart radicalization in young people. The RCMP have started a program, but Ottawa is looking at doing more.

Right now, departments or agencies might have the discretion to circulate data, but often hold back for fear of breaching privacy legislation that protects individuals or corporations.

The bill will change this.

For instance, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development collects information from companies that export or import toxic chemicals that could be used to make weapons.

This information is already shared with foreign partners under an international convention.

Now it will also be shared with Canadian security agencies or law enforcement.

So, should contents be missing from a shipment of chemicals from a foreign country, Foreign Affairs will be free to share that with Canadian security agencies and law enforcement.

The Conservatives are also weighing new tools to deal with citizens who openly support terrorist attacks on Canadians on the Internet or those who back groups that promote this goal.

Critics have already raised concerns that Ottawa might over-react with new measures and trample civil rights.

Stephen Harper has made it clear that, as Prime Minister, he sees Canada being swept up in a war with extremists.

On Jan. 9, he said he believes an “international jihadist movement” has declared war on Canada and its allies and that while he is determined to balance civil rights with appropriate measures, he is prepared for what he considers a long conflict.

“They have declared war on any country like ourselves that values freedom, openness and tolerance. And we may not like this and wish it would go away, but it is not going to go away and the reality is we are going to have to confront it.”

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