Anti-terror Bill C-51 to be changed as Tories respond to criticism

Anti-terror Bill C-51 to be changed as Tories respond to criticism

The government will propose a handful of amendments to the proposed anti-terror bill when it goes to clause-by-clause review on Tuesday, CBC News has learned, including a proposal that would protect protests from being captured by the new measures.

"Many witnesses were concerned that by saying "lawful" protests would not be considered terrorist acts, it meant that protests which were not necessarily terrorist, but not necessarily legal, could be," CBC News correspondent Chris Hall explained in an interview on CBC News Network on Friday afternoon.

"For example, incidents of chaining yourself to a fence to protest, a logging decision or mine development."

That section will be changed to narrow the scope of what might be captured as a terrorist-related activity, he said.

The government will also put forward an amendment to make it clear that CSIS agents would not have the power to arrest people.

Other government-backed changes in the works include limits to information-sharing and adjusting a provision that would have given the public safety minister the power to direct air carriers to do "anything" that, in the minister's view, is "reasonably necessary" to prevent a terrorist act.

Sources have told CBC News that the Tories will propose four amendments. They could also vote to reject particularly problematic elements during clause-by-clause review.

"As we have said for many weeks, we are open to amendments that make sense and that improve the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015," a senior government official told CBC News.

New Democrats waiting to see amendments

Thus far there is no indication the government will heed the calls for increased oversight.

The Tories could, however, introduce separate legislation to expand the mandate and boost the powers of the Security Intelligence Review Committee that oversees CSIS.

Both the New Democrats and the Liberals have already served notice that they plan on putting forward amendments as well, the bulk of which would go further than what the government will propose.

NDP deputy public safety critic Rosane Doré Lefebvre told CBC News that her party will wait to see the proposed amendments before deciding whether to support the changes.

"Initially, the prime minister and Stephen Blaney said it was 'ridiculous' for Tom Mulcair and the NDP to criticize this bill, and now they've been forced to change their tune," she added.

"Unlike the Liberals, we decided to stand by our principles and oppose this bill. We put pressure on the Conservatives to amend this bill and they finally gave in."

She says the NDP will continue to oppose the bill, as "it goes too far and undermines Canadians’ rights and freedoms."

The House public safety committee will begin clause-by-clause review on Tuesday.