Capital MPs united against Conservative plan to resurrect anti-terrorism measures

Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he was looking at bringing back the ability for police to arrest someone for three days without a warrant if it's believed they may be involved in terrorist activity.

  • Sep. 14, 2011 10:00 a.m.

Greater Victoria’s MPs are raising the red flag over the Conservative government’s plan to resurrect controversial anti-terrorism measures.

Last week, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said he was looking at bringing back the ability for police to arrest someone for three days without a warrant if it’s believed they may be involved in terrorist activity.

The measure expired in 2007 due to a “sunset clause” attached to it when it was brought in as part of the Anti-Terrorism Act after the 9/11 attacks in the U.S.

Victoria’s NDP and Green MPs say they don’t approve of such an “unnecessary” step backward.

“The only message I’ve been receiving from my constituents is we should do what we can to protect Canada from these kind of draconian and anti-democratic measures,” Saanich-Gulf Islands MP Elizabeth May said. “It strikes me as excessive and quite unnecessary, and it does real damage to our civil liberties.”

Victoria MP Denise Savoie says the NDP won’t support the amendments, as the provision is one that promotes politics of fear and division.

“We can’t afford to sacrifice these fundamental rights and freedoms in the name of fear,” she said. “Perhaps when democracy is being challenged, what we need is more democracy, not less.”

She argues that judicial oversight is needed in balancing public safety with human rights. Giving law enforcement unnecessary powers isn’t a viable argument in the supposed name of security.

It’s a sentiment echoed by University of Victoria political science professor Colin Bennett.

“It’s deeply troubling. There’s no evidence that law enforcement needs these powers,” he said.

Also concerning to Bennett is lawful access legislation that, like the Anti-Terrorism Act, is being perceived as an invasion of civil rights.

“This would give law enforcement extended access to our subscriber information from all our Internet communication and mobile devices without a warrant,” he said. “It’s deeply troubling they want to do this without any judicial oversight. … These both turn our constitutional guarantees on its head.”

May says as a non-committee member she is one of only five MPs that has the ability to present amendments to bills at the report stage in the House of Commons. She plans on making sure the strong opposition to these provisions is heard.

“I have more potential to change bills than MPs in the Liberal, the NDP or the Conservative caucuses,” she said. “We need everyone, Conservatives too, to ask, ‘Are we safer when we decide to surrender civil liberties?’ I don’t think that’s necessarily the case.”

kslavin@saanichnews.com