Canada's antiterrorism law is giving police wide-ranging powers to infringe upon the rights of the nation's one million Arab and Muslim citizens, the president of the Canadian Arab Foundation said yesterday.
"In the climate following Sept. 11, Canadian Muslims and Arabs cannot help but feel threatened," Raja Khouri told a news conference in Ottawa.
Mr. Khouri joined immigration and refugee advocates, along with the Canadian Bar Association, at a news conference in Ottawa to call on Parliament to review its antiterrorism law.
Bill C-36, which was fast-tracked through the House of Commons in six weeks and passed in December 2001, is "Draconian," Mr. Khouri said. He said there have been reports of at least 35 Arab and Muslims wrongfully questioned and detained by police since the bill was passed. "It's a very wide net that's being spread."
He said his group's concerns have been "brushed off" by the federal government and that he is worried the antiterrorism law will create a "climate of fear" for Canadian Muslims and Arabs.
The law grants wide powers of arrest, detention and surveillance, as well as authority to freeze and confiscate assets of suspected terrorists.
The legislation also allows preventive arrest of terrorist suspects without any crime being committed. Suspects can be held for up to 72 hours without charge.
"The main victims of the new security [measures]are refugees and immigrants," said Janet Dench of the Canadian Council for Refugees. She cited secret trials to deport people and proposed changes to the Citizenship Act that would allow the revocation of citizenship through secret trials.