An anti-terrorism bill entailing broad powers of arrest and detention and a massive loss of rights of the accused has pro-lifers concerned, since the legislation’s definition of terrorism could be interpreted to include pro-life groups. The apprehension is warranted given a government intelligence agency document which includes the “pro-life movement” under the category of “single issue terrorism.” (The report is available on the Internet; see the Canadian Security Intelligence Service CSIS document: http://www.csis-scrs.gc.ca/eng/comment/com74_e.html.)
Presented in the House of Commons , the Liberal government’s Anti-Terrorism Act, Bill C-36, would allow for arrest and confinement by police for up to 72 hours on mere suspicion of a criminal offence, and also remove the right of the accused to be silent so as to avoid self-incrimination.
Whereas American anti-terrorism legislation has a sunset clause with which the legislation will expire after a number of years, the Canadian bill includes a review of the legislation in three years but not an expiry.
The definition of terrorism in bill C-36 includes “an act or omission … committed in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose, objective or cause … that is intended to … cause serious interference with or serious disruption of an essential service, facility or system, whether public or private.” Although this portion of the definition could be applied to legitimate forms of protest, the legislation’s definition exempts “lawful advocacy, protest, dissent or stoppage of work that does not involve an activity that is intended to result in” conduct causing death, bodily harm, endangering life, or risk to health or safety.
Given the wide-ranging powers of the proposed legislation and the broad interpretation that the bill would sustain, the legislation is being looked at critically by advocates of free speech. However, the government is pressing for quick passage of the bill before adequate analysis can be completed.
Karen Murawsky, national affairs director for Campaign Life Coalition said, “The enforcement of this legislation could be dangerous and possibly used against us without cause.”