September 05, 2003 Features & Images » Feature Story

Feature - Security measures 

Two years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks are we facing another assault?

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To use the recognizance with conditions clause "a peace officer must believe on reasonable grounds that a terrorist activity will be carried out and suspect on reasonable grounds that imposing conditions for supervision or arresting a person is necessary to prevent this activity from being carried out. If these conditions are met, the peace officer can bring the person before a court, with a summons or alternatively by arrest with or without a warrant, so that a judge may determine whether or not to order a recognizance to keep the peace."

While these measures alarm many people – John Dixon, president of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association, has said the Act contains "draconian measures" which include allowing "the Communications Security Establishment to use its resources to monitor communications within Canada" – the Attorney General of Canada is required to present an annual report to Parliament on their use. For the first year the Anti-Terrorism Act was in place (Dec. 24, 2001 to Dec. 24, 2002) there were no applications to use either the investigative hearing provisions or the recognizance with conditions clause.

"The fact that these provisions were not used by the RCMP or federal prosecutors in the first year of their existence illustrates that these measures are not being abused and that these agencies are proceeding cautiously in using these powers," the Department of Justice Web site states.

However, the powers contained within the Anti-Terrorism Act and other laws have come under more scrutiny following the arrest and detention of 19 men of Pakistani and Indian origin in Ontario last month. The men are accused of violating the Immigration Act, but according to media reports a document filed for a detention hearing states: "Based upon the structure of this group, their associations, and connected events, there is a reasonable suspicion that these persons pose a threat to national security."

Two of the suspects have been set free in the last week – an adjudicator presiding over the detention hearing said she saw no concrete evidence linking them to terrorism – while a 20th man was also arrested in what is being called Project Thread. No charges have been laid against any of the men.

Perhaps not unexpectedly, the alleged terrorists have received little sympathy from the general public. A Globe and Mail Web site poll last week found 73 per cent of nearly 16,000 respondents felt such open-ended detentions are justified for national security reasons. And while some Pakistani Canadians accused authorities of racial profiling, several newspaper columnists defended the arrests.

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