Terrorism bill worries MP

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Rathgeber concerned over criminalizing the promotion of terrorism

St. Albert’s MP has some legal and practical concerns about parts of the proposed new Anti-terrorism Act.

The bill gives CSIS new powers to intervene where terrorism is suspected, though it’s required to get permission of a judge, allows quicker and lengthier detention of terror suspects and other changes, such as criminalizing the promotion of terrorism.

Edmonton-St. Albert MP Brent Rathgeber, interviewed in his constituency as Canada’s prime minister introduced the new bill in Richmond Hill, Ont., said he thinks much of the content of the bill – like sharing information between federal agencies, or the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s (CSIS) new “power to disrupt” – is positive.

Rathgeber said he suspects that Canadians will “accept some compromises of their privacy in exchange for perceived increases to their security.”

But he is concerned about the new Criminal Code offence that makes it illegal to advocate or promote terrorism in general, rather than specific acts of terror.

“On its surface (it) sounds like a good thing to prohibit, but it’s going to be on a quick collision course with freedom of speech,” Rathgeber said. “I have both legal and practical concerns when you try to statutorily prohibit the promotion of terrorism online.”

While he sees what the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) promotes as evil, he notes evil is in the eye of the beholder.

“It’s a slippery slope,” he said of making, promoting or advocating terrorism in general illegal.

On a practical front, Rathgeber is worried about forcing would-be terrorists’ activity underground so they’re harder to find and monitor.

So while he thinks that Canadians are in a mood to exchange some privacy for security, he said it’s up to MPs, lawyers and the courts to make sure an appropriate balance is struck between the two.

Even suspending all civil liberties wouldn’t ensure Canadians can be safe from acts of terror, he noted. An armed soldier could be on every block and a suicide bomber could still blow themselves up.

“You’re still not going to be 100 per cent secure,” he said.

The legislation has been introduced in the same week that there were revelations about the Communications Security Establishment Canada’s (CSEC) activities in monitoring online metadata.

Internet metadata is a summary of online content and activity.

Rathgeber is planning to table a bill that would introduce more oversight for CSEC as early as next week. He was waiting to see what was contained in the Anti-Terrorism Bill before going ahead.

“Just out of principle, I don’t want the government to know the contents of my emails, or the content of my telephone calls, or for that matter my web browser history,” he said.

Rathgeber said he’s a “big believer” in warrants, saying if there is probably cause, agencies should have to apply for a warrant with a judge to access information.

The revelations about CSEC’s activities show surveillance that is both warrantless, and often not based on any particular suspicion, Rathgeber said. It’s looking for a needle in a haystack – and “all of our privacy rights are compromised in that giant haystack.”

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