Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government’s controversial new anti-terrorism bill has passed in the House of Commons, granting Canada’s spy agency more powers to foil terrorist attacks and gather personal information about Canadians.
Bill C-51’s approval breezed through with a 183-96 vote in the third reading. The Conservative majority voted for the bill, which also had the support of the third place Liberal Party. The NDP and Green parties have been adamantly against the bill.
The bill criminalizes the promotion and advocacy of terrorism while providing the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the nation’s police forces with more legal and operational authority,
Under Bill C-51, travel plans, bank transactions and websites of concern can be interfered or canceled by CSIS. Canadians can be detained by police on mere suspicion without charge and placed on a peace bond more easily.
However, CSIS is obligated to obtain a court order whenever an operational activity violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Other aspects of the bill will improve and expedite personal information sharing between a large number of federal agencies, departments and entities to make it easier for police to carry out an arrest. Personal information that could be shared between government agencies includes medical history, financial status, academic history, sexual orientation, religious and political beliefs.
There has been mounting opposition to the bill from a range of special interest and civil rights groups, who claim the bill could open the possibility to abuse of powers. The NDP’s proposed amendments to the bill to address issues over the lack of oversight and privacy was rejected 183-95 before the main vote over the bill occurred.
A recent poll by Forum Research gauging national opinion indicated 56 per cent opposed the sweeping security measures. Just 33 per cent of Canadians support Bill C-51.