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Harper's 'Islamicism' remark draws heavy opposition fire

Prime Minister Stephen Harper delivers a speech to Canadian troops at the Trapani air-force base in Italy on Sept. 1, 2011.


Stephen Harper is using the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks for political gain, the opposition says.

To the NDP, the Prime Minister is sowing division on the eve of the 10th anniversary. And to the Liberals, Mr. Harper is trying to look tough by musing about changing the anti-terrorism laws.

"The 10th anniversary of 9/11 should be a time for reflection on how we can build a more inclusive society to end extremism," NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar told The Globe Wednesday morning. "Let's all guard against knee-jerk demonizing and overheated rhetoric."

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The Prime Minister told CBC's Peter Mansbridge on Tuesday night that in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the major threat to Canada "is still Islamicism."

"Unfortunately, Stephen Harper continues to use divisive language for political purposes," Mr. Dewar charged.

The Prime Minister also vowed in the CBC interview, which will be broadcast in full on Thursday night, to bring back two controversial clauses in the Antiterrorism Act, parts of which expired in 2007. One clause allowed police to arrest suspects without a warrant and hold them for three days without charges if they believed a terrorist act had been committed; the other clause allowed a judge to compel a witness to testify in secret under penalty of jail if the witness refused.

The act was passed in 2001 in reaction to the terrorist strikes on New York and Washington, but the controversial clauses expired in 2007.

To Bob Rae, however, there is more to dealing with terrorism than changing the law. The Interim Liberal Leader, who wrote the report on the bombing of Air India Flight 182, told The Globe on Wednesday that the "government will have to explain why measures in place since 2007 have been inadequate."

He added: "The Harperites are always looking at changing the law as a sign of getting tough. But the issues of prevention and protection are different, more difficult and require more effort."

Mr. Rae argued the real issue is "how effective CSIS, RCMP and police are working together."

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And he posed a number of questions that he looks forward to debating in the fall. "How many Arabic and other languages are spoken by officers and specialists? How we deal with the 'intelligence/evidence' conundrum? ... And how effective are we at understanding 'home grown' terrorism?"

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About the Author
Ontario politics reporter

Jane Taber is a reporter at Queen’s Park. After spending three years reporting from the Atlantic, she has returned to Ontario and back to writing about her passion, politics. She spent 25 years covering Parliament Hill for the Ottawa Citizen, the National Post and the Globe and Mail. More

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