The federal government of Canada has introduced a new bill in the House of Commons, one that would see an expansion of powers granted to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). It would also give police the power to charge individuals who call for terrorist attacks in general, even if they don’t specify a time, place, or group of individuals to target.
Dubbed the Anti-Terrorism Act, the new bill would be granting Canadian security agencies more powers than at any time in the past decade, according to a story in the Globe and Mail. Its introduction is a response to deadly attacks on soldiers in Quebec and Ontario in October 2014, including one where a gunman stormed the Parliament buildings in Ottawa.
Some of the powers introduced in the bill include:
- Giving CSIS the ability to intervene when it spots threats here in Canada and abroad. In the past, CSIS was only able to gather intelligence and give it to the RCMP
- Giving courts the ability to order websites to take down “terrorist propaganda,” if the sites are powered by Canadian Internet service providers
- Giving government departments the authority to share private information with law enforcement agencies, like passport applications or confidential commercial data
- Giving police the ability to charge someone for posting content calling for others to “attack Canada” or promoting terrorist attacks in general
There were also a slew of other powers granted to police, allowing them to bump up the amount of holding time for suspected terrorists from three days to seven. Police would also be allowed to apply to a court to ask it to restrict suspected terrorists’ movements, but instead of needing to believe an act “will be carried out,” the new bill calls for police to believe an act “may be carried out.”
CSIS will also be able to cancel an individual’s travel reservations, stop a banking transaction, or disrupt electronic communications under this new bill, as long as a judge gives approval. That brings it more in line with police forces, though CSIS still does not have the power to arrest or detain anyone.
In an address from Richmond Hill, Ont. today, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said terrorists are keen to attack Canada because of its democratic freedom. He added these measures wouldn’t infringe other rights.
“We do not buy the argument that every time you protect Canadians you take away civil liberties,” he said, as quoted by the Globe.
However, David Christopher, communications manager of OpenMedia.ca, disagreed.
“This plan appears to further encourage reckless sharing of our sensitive private information rather than providing a clear path for effective targeted action,” he said in a statement.
“The government has failed to show a demonstrable need for drastic expansion of spy agency powers. Instead we see further measures that will place Canadians’ private lives under the microscope of secretive and unaccountable government agencies like CSIS and the Communications Security Establishment (CSE). And yet the government is doing nothing to improve the accountability and transparency of these powerful spy agencies.”
The news of the federal government’s new bill comes on the heels of a story broken by the CBC and the Intercept earlier this week, where investigative reporters showed the CSE has been collecting information on millions of consumers’ uploads and downloads everyday, thanks to a document supplied by U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden.