Combating Terrorism Act receives Royal Assent. The alleged ‘Via Rail plot’ or the so-called U.S.-Canadian Operation Smooth “served to divert attention from the sweeping arbitrary and secret powers the Harper dictatorship has given Canadian and U.S. security authorities,” notes the TML Weekly Information Project in a special edition exposing state terrorism.
ON APRIL 24 Bill S-7, An Act to Amend the Criminal Code, the Canada Evidence Act and the Security of Information Act, also known as the Combating Terrorism Act, was passed by the Harper government with the support of the Liberals by a vote of 183 to 93. Because it was first introduced in the Senate rather than the House of Commons, it was not required to return to the Senate for review. The next day it received Royal Assent and became law.
The final reading debate on the legislation on April 22 was accompanied by the Harper dictatorship’s announcement that Canadian authorities, working closely with the FBI, had arrested two men suspected of conspiring to derail a Via Rail train on a section of train track between Toronto and New York. In this way the stage was set for a debate in the media on the obvious coincidence of the timing of the alleged plot and to justify the legislation. All of it has also served to divert attention from the sweeping arbitrary and secret powers the Harper dictatorship has given Canadian and U.S. security authorities.
The Combating Terrorism Act has two main aspects. The first is that it reestablishes the regime of preventative arrest under which Canadians can be held without charges based merely on suspicion, or the opinion of authorities that the person may have information about someone else they believe may be involved in terrorist activity. For example, under the law, a person can now be held for up to 12 months without charge based on the suspicion that they may have in the past, or might in the future commit terrorist activity or be involved in terrorist activity. It also gives the state the power to hold a person who authorities believe may have information about someone who they believe may be involved in terrorist activity for up to 90 days if they refuse to comply, or guarantee that they will testify. Finally, it permits authorities to arrest someone who they believe is going to leave Canada with the intention of committing terrorist activity or supporting it.
The second aspect is that it makes it a crime to disclose state secrets, which the legislation does not define – opening the door to any information the state declares an issue of national security being subject to the law. It legalizes the state’s ability to keep all kinds of information related to terrorism charges and appeals secret from the people, especially as concerns the sources of information, opening the space for more use of state agents, agents provocateurs, and sting operations that create terrorist activity. The law includes new powers for the federal Attorney General to intervene in provincial courts to prevent provincial attorneys general from making public certain information the federal government does not want made public during trials.
It is noteworthy that in the debate at third reading, none of the leaders of any of the parties in the House of Commons spoke to the legislation, either for or against. The Conservatives had the Parliamentary Secretary of Public Safety, Candice Bergen, introduce debate on the legislation. While this debate was taking place in the House of Commons, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews issued a statement about the arrests of the two suspects in the alleged “Via Rail plot.”
Toews declared that the arrests prove the necessity for whatever violation of rights the Harper government is enacting. “The first responsibility of any government is to ensure the safety and security of its citizens. Our government takes this responsibility very seriously and we have strengthened the legislative and operational framework of our security agencies to carry out that mandate,” he said.
“Today’s arrests demonstrate that terrorism continues to be a real threat to Canada,” Toews added, despite no evidence yet being provided, or the suspects even being brought before a judge. In this way, the arrests served to instill a sense of an impending attack on the basis of which further action can be justified, as in the case of the lock-down in Watertown after the Boston events.
Toews ended his remarks stating, “Our Government will continue to be vigilant and take the steps necessary to protect Canadians and their families, and our allies who share our common values.” Why Canada would only seek to protect its allies and not all the countries and peoples of the world from terrorism also reveals the self-serving nature of the legislation. We are told in effect that the Harper government will not oppose terrorism when it serves its interests and those of U.S. imperialism. In other words, the government has no intention of actually trying to prevent terrorism, but has something else in mind. What that might be is not to be discussed. We are to believe that only supporters of terrorism or those who are soft on terrorism would question the government.
Changes at CSIS as new anti-terror laws put in place
On April 23 the Prime Minister’s Office announced the transfer of the head of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), Richard Fadden to the position of Deputy Minister of National Defence. Fadden’s interim replacement at CSIS is Michel Coulombe, the service’s Deputy Director of Operations. In May 2010, Coulombe reportedly told a parliamentary committee examining Afghan detainee abuse that Canadians would likely tolerate using intelligence gained by torture if it meant saving lives. According to research by Canadian Press reporter Jim Bronskill, Coulombe played a leading role in a high-level CSIS panel that decides whether intelligence has been obtained through torture, and if sharing such information with foreign intelligence services might result in further torture.
Also on April 23, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the appointment of Deborah Grey as a member of the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC). SIRC “provides an external review of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s performance of its duties and functions, and examines complaints by individuals or reports by ministers relating to security clearances and the national security of Canada.”
Grey was the first Member of Parliament for the Reform Party of Canada, and Stephen Harper was her first legislative assistant.
The former Chair of SIRC from 2010-2011, Dr. Arthur Porter, has been in the news recently for charges relating to corruption in construction of the McGill mega hospital in Montreal. To date the Harper government has refused to take responsibility for nominating this corrupt individual to chair SIRC, claiming that other parties did not oppose the nomination. He resigned from this post in 2011 when it was revealed he had ties to an Israeli businessman described in news reports as “a possible arms dealer, spy and consultant to dictators.”* Despite this, he was awarded the plum position of heading the mega project in Montreal.
* TS note. The position gave Porter access to not only sensitive secrets of Canadian intelligence but of American intelligence as well. For further information on this murky case, see Robert Parry’s recent article, “Israeli ex-spy case in Montreal: Military-grade accelerant?” on this website.