Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Fallout from the Khawaja Anti-Terrorism Law Ruling

As many people already know, Justice Douglas Rutherford of Ontario Superior Court has ruled that a section of Canada's anti-terrorism legislation that seeks to define "terrorism" violates the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The ruling was in the case of Mohammad Momin Khawaja, who was arrested in 2004 in connection with an alleged terrorist plot in the United Kingdom.

The part of the law that was struck down deals with the motivational dimension of the definition of terrorism under the legislation. The part that was declared unconstitutional stated that a terrorist act was one carried out or planned out of ideological, religious or political motivations.

You can read the full-text of the decision on the website of the Globe and Mail.

For a discussion of what the ruling means, see:

The Justice Canada website has a section devoted to the parliamentary review of the Anti-terrorism Act. The Act, when passed in 2001, included a provision that called for a review within a number of years by committees of parliament. The CBC has a special web section on the legislation.

Earlier this week, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (House of Commons) came out with its 3rd (interim) report in its examination of the legislation.

Conservative and Liberal members of the committee want a 5-year extension of the provisions of the Act that allow preventive arrests and investigative hearings for material witnesses in terror cases. They argue that there are sufficient protections for civil liberties in the legislation and in court practices. Preventive arrest allows the arrest without a warrant of any person if police believe this is necessary to prevent the commission of a terrorist activity. These powers have never been used since the Act came into force.

Bloc Québécois and New Democratic Party members issued a minority report, urging the immediate end to the preventive arrest components of the law. They drew attention to the widespread abuses committed when the now repealed War Measures Act was invoked in 1970 during the FLQ October crisis in Montreal that saw the arrest of hundreds of people without charge or trial.

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posted by Michel-Adrien at 8:06 pm


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