Tories embrace changes to crime bill they rejected just days earlier

The Conservative government faced accusations of snoozing at the legislative wheel after trying to introduce 11th hour changes to their big crime bill — changes that they rejected only a week ago when they were proposed by the opposition.

By THE CANADIAN PRESS

OTTAWA — The Conservative government faced accusations of snoozing at the legislative wheel after trying to introduce 11th hour changes to their big crime bill — changes that they rejected only a week ago when they were proposed by the opposition.

Liberal Justice critic Irwin Cotler has tried for years to pass legislation that would allow Canadian victims to sue listed terrorist organizations and state sponsors of terror for damages.

He made another attempt last week as a Commons committee studied Bill C-10, the omnibus crime bill. Conservatives on the committee didn’t debate Cotler’s amendments and hastily rejected them.

Public Safety Minister Vic Toews tried Tuesday to introduce amendments in the Commons that mirrored Cotler’s suggestions after the committee’s scrutiny of the bill had wrapped up but the Speaker rejected the late attempt.

The Conservatives have not yet decided whether they’ll bring those amendments to the Senate.

NDP Justice critic Jack Harris said the sudden reversal shows the Conservatives aren’t serious about respecting the parliamentary process.

“It’s just pretty clear that this bill is being rushed through for political reasons. They haven’t given it proper consideration,” said Harris.

“They wouldn’t take any amendments being proposed by us seriously or being proposed by the government of Quebec, and it’s pretty clear that this is all about getting their bill through as is because it suits their political agenda and not the needs of Canadians.

But a government source said the amendments were brought in late in the game because Toews was still meeting with interested stakeholders right up to the last minute to determine how best to address the issue.

The proposed measures would allow a victim of a terrorist act to not only sue a listed terrorist organization, but also the states that allow them to operate with impunity or actively support them.

Cotler has wanted such a bill since he was Liberal justice minister. His legislation died on the order paper in 2006 when his government was defeated.

“One of my first actions was to go to the then minister of public security Stockwell Day and say to him, ‘Stockwell, here’s a bill that I would have presented had we not lost the election. I’d like your government to now take it up,”’ said Cotler.

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