Harper government to fast track anti-terrorism bill

Peter Van Loan (Reuters)Presumably as a result of the Boston marathon explosions, the Harper government is putting its proposed anti-terrorism bill on top of their priority list.

[ Related: ‘Give us evidence,’ demands Canadian family of Boston bombing suspects ]

On Friday, Government House Leader Peter Van Loan made the following statement in Parliament:

Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a brief statement respecting the business of the House next week. As I said at the start of question period, leadership requires decisive and serious action in response to the serious threats of violent terrorism.

In order to give members of this House an opportunity to express their views on the appropriate way to respond to terrorist violence, on Monday and Tuesday the House will debate Bill S-7, the Combating Terrorism Act. This bill is at its final stage in Parliament and I call upon all members of this place to pass this bill, we don't need further study - we need action.

As a result, the government business originally scheduled for those days will be re-scheduled to a later date.

The timing of the debate is a little suspect: Monday was a scheduled opposition day for the the Liberals where Justin Trudeau was poised to introduce a motion which would limit the powers of the party whips to control which MPs could speak and on what issues.

It's a touchy issue for the Conservative leadership who are in the midst of a backbench backlash on that very issue.

The Liberals will instead have their opposition day next Wednesday.

[ Related: Did authorities miss a chance to keep Canadian out of deadly Algerian terror attack? ]

Regardless, the Tories seem buoyed by the recent events in Boston and the Canadian links to the Algeria terror attack to fast track a bill that has been 'on the books' -- in it's current form -- for over a year.

What is in Bill S-7, the Combating Terrorism Act?

Here is what the proposed bill includes (from a Department of Justice backgrounder):

Investigative hearings:

This would give a judge the power, on application by a peace officer, to require someone who is believed to have information about a terrorism offence that has been, or may be, committed, to appear before the court to answer questions. If the person does not comply with the order, the same judge may issue a warrant for their arrest.

Recognizance-with-conditions:

The recognizance-with-conditions measure would assist law enforcement in disrupting terrorist attacks. For example, if a peace officer believes on reasonable grounds that a terrorist activity will be carried out, and suspects on reasonable grounds that the imposition of recognizance with conditions on a particular person would be necessary to prevent that from happening, then the officer could apply to a judge to have the person appear before the court.

Leaving Canada to commit a terrorism offence:

The bill proposes the creation of new offences for leaving or attempting to leave Canada for the purpose of committing a terrorism offence. For example, leaving Canada to participate in the activity of a terrorist group, such as attending a terrorist training camp, would become a specific criminal offence. The proposed maximum penalty for this offence, or an attempt to commit this offence, would be 10 years imprisonment.

Other offences of leaving Canada to facilitate a terrorist activity, leaving Canada to commit an offence for the benefit of a terrorist group and leaving Canada to commit an offence that is also a terrorist activity would all carry a maximum penalty of 14 years.

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