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Adam Radwanski

Unintended consequences? Add to ...

In the absence of the actual draft legislation, it's awfully difficult to assess the merits of the federal government's plan to allow "victims of terrorism" to sue foreign governments. But if that legislation isn't written very carefully, you have to wonder if the CJC audience which gave Stephen Harper a standing ovation on Sunday might soon be a little less receptive.

If the Unites States could conceivably be brought to court under such a law, as stories in the past 24 hours have suggested, then you have to figure there's some risk Israel could be as well.

Not to say that such a claim would be successful. But it seems to me that if the opportunity presented itself - in the form, say, of a Palestinian-Canadian who alleged that his family was the victim of terrorism when its home was bulldozed - there are more than a few people who might seize on the opportunity to make a political point.

Again, for all we know the legislation will be immaculately crafted. But in their rush to show they're tough on terrorism, both government and opposition should take the time to ensure they know what they're getting themselves into.


Update: The government's legislation, unveiled today, addresses this concern by providing that only those countries designated by Ottawa as supporters of terrorism will be open to lawsuits. I can't say with 100% certainty, mostly because I'm not a lawyer, that the restrictive list couldn't be challenged. But whatever this bill's merits, it seems to have been constructed with more foresight than the slapdash private member's bill along the same lines that was introduced by Stockwell Day back in 2005.

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