Harper turns ‘sociology’ into dirty word after passing anti-terrorism bill

Matthew Coutts
Daily Brew

This is a tricky question to consider: Just how soon should we jump into action ahead of a terror plot? Should we be ready to move against a suspect before we hold irrefutable proof that a plot even exists?

Should we consider acting early enough to stop would-be suspects from considering those plans at all?

Canada’s government seems to have the answer. Yes, be ready to act the moment we have a sneaking suspicion. No, don’t bother trying to understand what would lead someone to consider an act of terror in the first place.

One day after passing a bill that will give law enforcement agencies the right to detain people suspected of terrorist connections, Prime Minister Stephen Harper again shot down idea of considering the matter on a wider scale.

Harper said the recent string of terrorist events did not make it time to “commit sociology.” That is a clever quote-worthy way of saying, “don’t start looking for the ‘root causes’ that lead to terrorism.”

"I think, though, this is not a time to commit sociology, if I can use an expression," Harper said, according to CBC News. "These things are serious threats, global terrorist attacks, people who have agendas of violence that are deep and abiding threats to all the values our society stands for.

[ Related: Boston suspects discussed setting off bombs in New York: sources ]

Consider this the second round in attack against Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau’s idea that we should look at the motivating factors behind the Boston bombing. His thinking was that if we understood what leads people to commit such acts, we could intervene early.

But intervening that early isn’t our focus. Our focus is stopping each event before they happen. And the Canadian government passed a law on Wednesday that resurrects 9/11-era powers to help them do just that.

CBC News reports that the bill, which received support from both Conservatives and Liberals in the House of Commons, welcomes back some powers allowing law enforcement agencies to detain and imprison anyone suspected of being involved in terrorism.

Anyone. You.

Bill S-7, the Combating Terrorism Act, was passed on Wednesday after being rushed forward in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing. It was on the books for debate, but the timing was expedited after the attack. And maybe that was appropriate.

The powers were created in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington on a time-limited basis. They expired in 2007 because the minority Conservative government did not have support at the time to renew them. Now, however, they have the numbers, and support from the Liberals.

[ More Brew: Timing of Canadian terror arrests questioned ]

Bill S-7 does include some new provisions, including a clause that makes it illegal to leave the country for the purpose of committing terrorism. But the two returning provisions surround interrogating and detaining suspected terrorists.

In short, anyone suspected of ties to terrorism can be held for three days without facing charges. If they refuse to answer questions, they can be held for a year.

The major concern is that these laws will be abused, misused by law enforcement officials who are overzealous (even rightfully) in their mission to avoid a terrorist attack.What makes me somewhat less tense about the subject is that these provisions were not used during their first genesis, according to the Globe and Mail.

Having those laws on the books will allow Canadian officials to act early – perhaps even as early as the moment we suspect someone might be plotting something dastardly. But understanding why someone might feel that way, that’s still frowned upon.

Perhaps we should detain anyone suspected of “committing sociology” as well.