Anti-terror law not needed

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Prime Minister Stephen Harper is right when he says terrorism, and particularly Islamist terrorism, is still a threat. But he has not made a case for expanding police powers as a response to that threat.

Harper says the government wants to bring back antiterrorism measures that expired in 2007 – measures such as preventive detention, without a warrant, for up to 72 hours. (Canadian law now requires that an arrested person be brought before a judge as soon as possible, normally within 24 hours.)

In the decade since Sept. 11, 2001, there have been too many instances of security trumping rights even in democratic countries – most notably the use of torture, the establishment of a quasi-permanent detention camp at Guantanamo Bay and the practice of extraordinary rendition. Canada’s hands have not been clean; the stories of Maher Arar, Abousfian Abdelrazik and Omar Khadr show that the price of freedom is indeed eternal vigilance.

It’s worth noting other democracies allow for preventive detention, some for much longer than 72 hours. But during the years that preventive detention was available in Canada – between 2001 and 2007 – it was never used. That contradicts Harper’s argument the expired anti-terrorist measures were “useful” and “necessary.”

The actions of police at the G20 summit in Toronto last year, when more than 900 people were arrested during a single weekend, showed that even in a well-governed and free country such as Canada, we can never simply trust that authorities will use extraordinary powers appropriately. In the last few years, police forces have not demonstrated that Canadians should entrust them with more power; if anything, they have eroded confidence in their judgment.
© Copyright (c) The Victoria Times Colonist
Source: Montreal Gazette

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