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Conservative anti-terror bill passes final vote with Liberal support

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney answers a question during Question Period in the House of Commons in Ottawa, Tuesday, May 5, 2015.

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The Conservative government's anti-terrorism legislation has passed its final vote in the House of Commons, clearing the way for the bill to become law before Parliament rises for the summer.

The third-reading vote passed 183 to 96 with the support of Conservative and Liberal Members of Parliament, and was opposed by New Democrats and Green Party Leader Elizabeth May. NDP MP Randall Garrison's proposed amendment to essentially gut the bill was rejected 183 to 95.

(For more on Bill C-51, read The Globe and Mail's in-depth explainer: Privacy, security and terrorism: Taking a closer look at Bill C-51)

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Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney applauded the passage of the legislation. "The [act] will provide our police forces with the tools they need to protect Canadians against serious and evolving threats from terrorist organizations like ISIS," he said.

Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act, gives police new powers of preventive arrest, allows spy agencies new abilities to "disrupt" threats and broadens the scope of the no-fly list that bars some travellers from boarding planes.

The bill also eases the transfer of information between some federal agencies and criminalizes the promotion of a terrorist attack.

Conservatives say the bill is necessary to combat the threat of terrorism. Prime Minister Stephen Harper has cited attacks in Ottawa and Quebec last October in promoting the legislation.

Bill C-51 faced an organized campaign to put pressure on MPs – particularly those from the Liberal Party – to vote against it. Critics, including the privacy commissioner, four former prime ministers and author Margaret Atwood, say the bill does not provide proper oversight and could affect the privacy of ordinary Canadians.

"Terrorism is a very real threat, but it is the responsibility of the government to protect both public safety and our civil liberties. This bill is vague, dangerous and won't make Canadians safer," Mr. Garrison said in a statement after the vote.

In March, the Conservatives offered amendments to allay some concerns with the bill, which included making sure lawful protests were not targeted.

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Mr. Harper's national security adviser, Richard Fadden, dismissed those concerns before a parliamentary defence committee in April. He said non-governmental organizations will not become the target of counterterrorism agencies.

"A number of people in the media and elsewhere have been reported as saying, 'The Girl Guides will be hit next.' Well, there has to be an actual threat to national security," Mr. Fadden said.

The bill is expected to pass the Conservative-dominated Senate and receive royal assent before legislators break for the summer in June. After that, Parliament is not likely to resume before a federal election that is scheduled for Oct. 19.

With a report from Daniel Leblanc

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About the Author
Assistant editor, Ottawa

Chris Hannay is assistant editor in The Globe's Ottawa bureau and author of the daily Politics newsletter. Previously, he was The Globe and Mail's digital politics editor, community editor for news and sports (working with social media and digital engagement) and a homepage editor. More

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