Legislation intended to crack down on terrorism does little to protect potential witnesses or informers and could end up scaring some of them away, says a study prepared for the Air India inquiry.
In the paper made public yesterday, criminologist Yvon Dandurand cast a critical eye on special police and judicial powers that allow for preventive arrests of terror suspects and closed-door investigative hearings where people with knowledge of terrorist plots can be compelled to testify.
The extraordinary powers were included in the federal Anti-Terrorism Act rushed into law in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.
They were subject to a five-year sunset clause and expired last year, but the Conservative government is proposing to restore them in legislation now before Parliament.
RCMP Deputy Commissioner Gary Bass has suggested the investigative hearings, in particular, could help to flush out witnesses with knowledge about the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182 that took 329 lives.
Mr. Dandurand, however, wrote that it's hard to defend that notion, since "compelled witnesses are still exposed to potential retaliation by terrorists, who would certainly continue to expect them to withhold the truth during their testimony."
Mr. Dandurand, who teaches at the University College of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia, also argued in his study that it's time to take a broader - and more critical - look at the role of witness protection programs in the fight against terrorism.
Inquiry head, former Supreme Court judge John Major, yesterday rejected an effort by the World Sikh Organization to call evidence on the possibility that the Indian government, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the RCMP all tried to discredit the Sikh community by blaming it for the 1985 bombing.
In a series of written rulings made public yesterday, he turned down requests by the WSO to call journalist Zuhair Kashmeri and former MP David Kilgour as expert witnesses. Mr. Kashmeri was co-author of a book entitled Soft Target that criticized the RCMP and CSIS investigations of the bombing and explored intelligence operations undertaken by the Indian government in Canada.
Mr. Kilgour, who sat at various times as a Liberal, Conservative and Independent MP, wrote a book called Betrayal about Ryszard Paszkowski, a Soviet-trained Polish spy who defected to the West. Mr. Paszkowski alleged, among other things, that CSIS tried to recruit him to take part in a bomb plot against an Air India plane in Europe in 1986, with a view to casting suspicion on Canadian Sikhs.