Special anti-terror powers restored

The Commons public safety committee has voted to revive extraordinary anti-terrorism provisions, but only for two years.

OTTAWA — The Commons public safety committee has voted to revive extraordinary anti-terrorism provisions, but only for two years.

The move drew an angry response from Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, who accused opposition MPs of gutting the legislation aimed at restoring special powers to the Anti-Terrorism Act.

“I think they’ve got a lot to answer for,” he said.

The special measures would allow authorities to arrest and hold suspects to prevent a terrorist attack, or compel them to appear before a judge in an investigative hearing.

The sections have long been controversial, condemned by critics as a serious breach of civil liberties and the tenets of fundamental justice.

Under the bill that now heads back to the Commons, the provisions would lapse after two years unless Parliament extends them.

The original Anti-Terrorism Act of 2001, passed following the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, included a five-year sunset clause.

The extraordinary provisions lapsed in 2007 and have never been successfully restored.

The latest bill was introduced last April. An earlier effort died on the order paper when the Harper government pulled the plug on Parliament.

New Democrat public safety critic Don Davies said Tuesday the party felt, if the legislation could not be halted, the special provisions should at least be placed on a short leash.