Last Updated: Wednesday - 01/05/2011
December 24, 2001
Anti-terrorist law doesn't meet Church concern
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA — The federal government's controversial anti-terrorism legislation has cleared the Senate but it falls short of what some Canadian churches had hoped for.
Bill C-36, which grants wide new powers of arrest, detention and surveillance, was part of the federal government's response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S.
It was given royal assent by Governor General Adrienne Clarkson Dec. 18 after the Liberal-dominated Senate curtailed debate and passed the bill by a 45-21 vote.
The Canadian Council of Churches had voiced concerns about the proposed legislation, stating "sufficient legal instruments" were already available.
Jennifer Leddy of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, who is also a member of the CCC's steering group on Church-state relations, said the bill as passed did not respond to the council's major concern.
She said amendments to the bill didn't deal with the council's fear that bona fide charities could lose their charitable status if they provide funds to their overseas partners for development assistance, only to have them inadvertently diverted to a terrorist organization.
The council wanted the section to be amended to include a requirement of criminal intent.
"It would really affect the work that is being done," said Leddy. Organizations could get caught in the bill "through no fault of their own and even after they exercise due diligence, which would result in their losing their registered charitable status."
However, Leddy said some changes to the initial bill are positive including one dealing with the detention of a person for facilitating terrorism whether or not the person knew that a terrorist activity was being facilitated.
"They've now changed that to indicate that in order to be guilty of an offence an individual must know or intend that his or her act would help a terrorist activity to occur," she said.
In addition, she said, amendments have made it clear that legitimate protest would not be caught up in the anti-terrorist legislation.
During debate on the bill in the Senate Dec. 17, Alberta Senator Douglas Roche said he was concerned about representations made to him by opponents of Bill C-36, among them the Sisters of Charity in Calgary.
They "urged me to try to stop the bill because they claim there is no provision for an overseeing agency to have the authority to overrule the security forces," he said.
Roche said much of the criticism he received was directed against the original bill and did not take account of changes that were made.
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