OTTAWA – The federal government’s controversial new anti-terrorism bill has won the approval of the House of Commons.
The Anti-Terrorism Act, also known as Bill C-51, easily passed third reading by a margin of 183 to 96, thanks to the Conservative government’s majority and the promised support of the third-party Liberals.
The legislation gives the Canadian Security Intelligence Service more power to thwart suspected terrorist plots — not just gather information about them.
It also increases the exchange of federal security information, broadens no-fly list powers and creates a new criminal offence of encouraging someone to carry out a terrorist attack.
In addition, the bill makes it easier for the RCMP to obtain a peace bond to restrict the movements of suspects and extend the amount of time they can be kept in preventative detention.
Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney has said the legislation is required to keep Canadians safe from jihadi-inspired attacks like those that claimed the lives of two soldiers in attacks just days apart last October.
Opponents of the bill have denounced the idea of allowing CSIS to go beyond gathering information to actively derailing suspected schemes.
A range of interests — civil libertarians, environmental groups and the federal privacy commissioner — have expressed grave concerns about the information-sharing provisions, saying they could open the door to abuses.
Prior to the vote, the Opposition New Democrats voted noisily — and in vain — in favour of proposed amendments that they say would have added a level of oversight and stronger privacy protections, among other things.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s national security adviser told the Senate national security committee last week that the agency’s new powers are not as scary as their critics contend.
The new disruption powers could permit CSIS to thwart travel plans, cancel bank transactions and covertly interfere with radical websites.
The bill says CSIS needs “reasonable grounds to believe” a security threat exists before taking measures to disrupt it.
It requires CSIS to get a court order whenever its proposed disruption violates the charter of rights or breaches Canadian law in any way.
As recently as this past weekend, Harper plugged the anti-terror bill in a speech to Canadian troops in Kuwait, telling them that it will give security agencies greater powers to thwart terrorist plans.