Anti-Terrorism Bill C-36

October 17, 2001

Anti-Terrorism Bill C-36
October 17, 2001

The terrorist attacks in the U.S. on September 11th, horrified Canadians, and it has created an atmosphere of unprecedented fear and anxiety. Members of the CAW have joined with other Canadians in the grief and sorrow for those who became the victims of this horrific tragedy.
It is important to realize that our response must not be rushed. We must take the opportunity to have sober reflection upon any changes to our laws that impact on our civil liberties. Unfortunately the federal government has permitted itself to be swept up in the strong currents of Canadians' understandable concerns of the events of September 11, and has rushed into parliament an unduly intrusive and unprecedented legislative assault on our fundamental liberties. This is an emotionally charged and hurriedly written piece of legislation.
The Bill that the government has introduced in the House of Commons would give police and courts widespread powers. For the first time in Canadian criminal law, the government proposes to give police and courts powers of investigation and "preventive arrest" that, even in the absence of charges, would curb a person's liberty and would compel an individual to give self-incriminating evidence against suspected associates at a secret "investigative hearing."
The definition of "terrorist activity" proposed by the government to be included in the Criminal Code is vague, overly and improperly broad. It includes, any action that is "taken or threatened for political, religious or ideological purposes and threatens the public or national security by killing, seriously harming or endangering a person, causing substantial property damage that is likely to seriously harm people or by interfering with or disrupting an essential service, facility or system". As well, the legislation permits the designation of groups whose activities meet the definition of "terrorist activity" as "terrorist groups".
Although the government says it won't prosecute those engaged in lawful strikes or protests under the new anti-terrorist law, we believe it would infringe on our democratic rights. For example, earlier this year, nurses engaged in peaceful workplace actions that some may have characterized "illegal and disruptive" to essential services - hospitals. Nurses enjoyed widespread support among the public, as one of their aims was to change the health policy of their government employers.
We have a long history of peaceful protests. Under this proposed law days of action and any other political protests could be construed by the police as "disruption of essential services".
The proposed new law, if passed without change, would allow police to detain a person for up to 72 hours without laying charges. Furthermore, the law will permit police to arrest and detain not only suspects, but anyone they believe may have any information pertinent to their investigations.
The Bill also proposes to change the rules of evidence so that those charged with terrorist crimes are no longer eligible to cross-examine those who bring evidence against them.
The law the government wants is so sweeping that it represents a dangerous infringement on our civil liberties and the due process of the law.
Since World War II our union has had a history of fighting against the curtailment of any of our rights and freedoms to participate fully in the affairs of Canadian society, particularly in the area of political debate and collective bargaining.
In the past, progressive Canadians have seen and fought against governments which have curtailed the civil liberties of Ukrainians during World War I, socialists after that war, Japanese Canadians during World War II and all Quebecers' rights during the October Crisis in 1970. In these cases amidst great emotional upheaval, the public supported the government actions. But, later the public realized that the country made a terrible mistake.
The CAW is calling on the government to hold public hearings across the country prior to passing any law dealing with terrorism and civil liberties, so Canadians can have an opportunity to express their views.

Adopted by the CAW National Executive Board, October 17, 2001

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