The Guardian November 7, 2001


Canada: "Anti-Terrorism" Bill attack on democracy

Just as in the USA and Australia, the Canadian Government is rushing 
through new far-reaching laws attacking basic democratic rights  all in 
the name of fighting terrorism. The following is the statement (abridged) 
by the Central Executive Committee, Communist Party of Canada on the 
Canadian Bill (October 26, 2001).

The Government's "Anti-Terrorism" Bill (C-36), introduced into the House of 
Commons October 15, should set off alarm bells with all democratic-minded 
Canadians. C-36 would strip away many of our fundamental rights and legal 
protections, all in the name of "protecting" Canadians from terrorist 
threats or attacks.

Worse, it would create a legal and political framework to further 
intimidate and stifle political dissent in this country, and to help whip 
up a "cold war" atmosphere of fear, paranoia and witch hunts.

The public is being told that C-36 is urgently required to provide the 
tools needed to fight the scourge of terrorism in our country. And yet, 
many experts agree that the legal means to combat terrorism is already 
essentially in place, and that the new law enforcement "tools" that would 
be provided by this Act are excessive, unnecessary, and open to widespread 
abuse by the Canadian state.

The draconian measures include "preventative detention" that would allow 
people identified as suspects or "potential" terrorists to be imprisoned 
for up to 12 months without a trial or conviction; "investigative hearings" 
in which individuals are stripped of their right to silence and forced to 
inform on their friends, relatives or co-workers on pain of their own 
incarceration; secret trials; the shredding of all privacy laws and 
protections; the extension of police and CSIS powers; etc.

Taken together, these reactionary changes would constitute the single most 
sweeping attack on the democratic and legal rights of Canadians since the 
War Measures Act of the early 20th century.

Furthermore, there are no reasonable grounds to believe that such measures 
will have any significant effect on combatting the real terrorists, any 
more than is the case under present-day law.

The most damning and starkly political part of the legislation relates to 
how "terrorism" is to be defined under law. According to the Bill, 
"terrorism" would involve any action or intention "of a political, 
religious or ideological" character that causes death or endangerment of a 
person's health. But it also includes actions which "cause substantial 
property damage" or which "cause serious interference with or disruption of 
and essential service, facility or system."

Such a sweeping definition covers virtually all forms of militant 
resistance or armed struggle.

As Canadian Civil Liberties Association president Alan Borovoy pointed out 
recently, if this Bill had been in place 10 years ago, Canadians who 
supported Nelson Mandela and the ANC, or who raised funds for the anti-
apartheid struggle in South Africa, would have been called "terrorists" and 
subject to arrest and conviction.

In fact, the definition is so broad that all those who engage in militant 
forms of resistance  peace supporters who march without a permit, anti-
globalisation activists who occupy buildings or try to shut down meetings 
like the WTO conference in Seattle, workers who refuse to abide by unjust 
labour laws  all these forms of struggle could be termed "terrorist" 
under this definition.

This legislation is an extremely grave attack on democracy in Canada.

Its sponsors and promoters hope that by a combination of parliamentary 
bullying and taking advantage of current public sentiment, shaken by the 
September 11th attacks and by current anthrax scare, they will be able to 
force C-36 into law quickly, and with little scrutiny or meaningful 
resistance.

This must not happen. It is imperative that all those Canadians who 
genuinely cherish democratic principles and practices  Canadians from 
every walk of life, and with views spanning the political spectrum  
should unite in demanding that this legislation be withdrawn.

Despite Liberal blustering to the contrary, the "anti-terrorism" Bill is 
very vulnerable. A broad array of legal professionals, constitutional 
experts, political parties and social activists has sharply condemned the 
Bill.

This indicates that it is possible to defeat this legislation, provided a 
broad front of democratic forces can come together quickly and decisively 
to mobilise the Canadian people against this horrendous attack on their 
rights and freedoms.

Our Party is fully committed to that goal and will work with all others in 
helping to realise such a broad front to defend democracy.

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