OTTAWA – While committed to a safe and secure Canada, the Canadian Bar Association (CBA) says that Bill S-7, Criminal Code, Canada Evidence Act and Security of Information Act amendments (Combating Terrorism Act) would not provide any new tools to combat terrorist offences.
“Instead,” says Paul Calarco, member of the CBA’s National Criminal Justice Section, “the provisions in Bill S-7 would duplicate existing laws that are more than adequate to deal with the threat of terrorist offences. Further, the Bill has the potential to violate basic rights and freedoms of Canadians.”
The CBA has advanced a consistent message on combating terrorism since 2001. “When exceptional state powers are shown to be justified, proportionate and necessary to combat terrorism in Canada, those powers should be carefully limited and accompanied by rigorous independent oversight,” says Paul Calarco.
In its letter to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security, the CBA notes it has consistently maintained that any departure from established legal rules and procedures can only be justified on the basis of evidence showing a clear need for that departure, if existing rules and procedures are inadequate.
In advancing its position, the CBA recognizes that the criminal law is not nor should it be static or unresponsive to changing conditions within Canada. “However, ‘fighting terrorism’ must not become a mantra that can be cited to justify ever-expanding state powers and ever-increasing encroachment upon fundamental human rights, individual privacy, and the rule of law,” adds Paul Calarco.
The CBA makes recommendations to improve the legislation that include the need for safeguards, a reporting mechanism, and a sunset clause.
Paul Calarco will appear before the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security on Wednesday, Nov. 21 at 4:30 pm ET, at 151 Sparks Street, Room 306.
The letter is available on the CBA website.