Skip to main content

Justice Minsiter Peter MacKay (left), Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Minister Steven Blaney, CSIS director Michel Coulombe and RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson arrive at the Commons public safety committee hearing witnesses on Bill C-51, Anti-terrorism Act on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Tuesday March 10, 2015.
 

Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS

A Senate committee is offering to conduct a review of Canada's new anti-terrorism powers five years after Parliament adopts Bill C-51, and is calling on the government to quickly adopt new measures to fight terrorism and improve its existing counterterrorism operations.

The committee on national security and defence has voted in favour of the legislation, but it is also calling on the government to consider the advice of some of the bill's critics, including former Supreme Court judge John Major and academic Craig Forcese, to improve its anti-terrorism framework.

(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)

Story continues below advertisement

Conservative Senator Daniel Lang, who is the chair of the committee, said it would be impractical to impose a sunset clause on some of the elements in the legislation that would nullify the measures unless they were specifically reapproved by Parliament. The best solution, he said, is for the Senate to give itself a mandate to look back at the legislation within five years of its adoption.

Mr. Lang said the legislation will have practical consequences, and the Senate offers a "non-partisan" forum to analyze whether the legislation has lived up to its promises.

"The decision by the committee to unanimously adopt observations on the bill, as well as its commitment to review it within five years of Bill C-51 receiving royal assent, speaks to the quality of work done by the Senate," he said.

The legislation has faced a barrage of criticism since it was introduced in January by the government in response to terrorist attacks in Ottawa and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu that targeted soldiers and Parliament.

Bill C-51 would beef up the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, criminalize the promotion of terrorism and provide the RCMP with new powers of preventive arrest. The bill also eases the transfer of information between some federal agencies and criminalizes promotion of a terrorist attack.

But critics have charged that it goes too far and risks ensnaring environmentalists and aboriginal people in the fight against terrorism.

The bill will now head for third reading in the Senate. The next step will be obtaining royal assent, which is expected to happen before the dissolution of Parliament in June ahead of the Oct. 19 general election.

Story continues below advertisement

The Senate committee on national security and defence was convinced by a recent appearance from Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney that some of the concerns raised by witnesses at the committee would be addressed by the government.

In particular, Mr. Blaney said he would ensure that whenever CSIS obtains a warrant to disrupt potential terrorist activities, the agency would report on the matter to its watchdog, the Security Intelligence Review Committee.

He also said the agencies that will benefit from new powers under C-51 will complete a "privacy impact assessment" to ensure that the rights of Canadians are protected.

The Senate committee feels that the government needs to take additional steps in the fight against terrorism. In particular, it called on the government to create a team of expert lawyers to prosecute terrorism cases. In addition, the committee said some judges should receive specialized training in the field to hear these cases.

The committee also called on the government to criminalize membership in a terrorist entity.

In a statement, Mr. Blaney thanked the committee for its contribution to the legislative process, promising that the government "will thoroughly examine" its observations.

Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter