OTTAWA — The NDP will oppose the Conservative government’s proposed anti-terrorism bill, saying it endangers Canadian liberties while failing to improve security.
Although terrorism is a real threat, the planned federal law is vague, ineffective and goes too far, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair told a news conference Wednesday.
“It doesn’t do things that are proven to work and puts politics ahead of protecting Canadians,” Mulcair said, ending weeks of speculation on the party’s stance.
“We cannot protect our freedoms by sacrificing. New Democrats have a different vision. Freedom and public safety have to go hand-in-hand. We will hold true to our principles and oppose this dangerous, over-reaching legislation.”
The bill, tabled late last month in response to the daylight murders of two Canadian soldiers, would give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service more power to thwart suspected terrorist plots.
It would also make it easier for the RCMP to obtain a peace bond to restrict the movements of suspects and extend the amount of time they can be kept in preventative detention.
In addition, it creates a new criminal offence of encouraging someone to carry out a terrorism attack.
“Experts warn that broad measures in this bill could lump legal dissent together with terrorism,” Mulcair said. “And the bill would give significant new powers to CSIS without addressing serious deficiencies in oversight.”
Mulcair advocates a parliamentary committee with the power to review secret documents like the ones that oversee spies in Britain and the United States. He said the NDP wants to ensure the bill doesn’t get rammed through Parliament.
“So that means having the proper time in parliamentary committee. Let’s listen to the experts,” he said.
“We’re going to be proposing amendments, and we hope that the government’s going to be listening and not playing politics with this.”
Justin Trudeau’s Liberals have said they will vote for the bill, despite concerns it does not include new watchdog powers to guard against abuses.
Trudeau said he will push for amendments to strengthen intelligence oversight and, if that proves unsuccessful, usher in the changes should the Liberals form the next government.
Mulcair called the stand “pathetic” and urged the Liberals to reconsider.
“This bill merits real debate,” Mulcair said. “Mr. Harper and the Conservatives have intimidated the Liberals into supporting this deeply flawed legislation. We in the NDP are going to fight it.”
He likened his party’s stand to former leader Tommy Douglas’ steadfast opposition to the War Measures Act, invoked by Trudeau’s father Pierre, the Liberal prime minister during the October 1970 FLQ crisis.
“It took much courage to stand up at that time,” Mulcair said.
Trudeau characterized Mulcair’s words as a personal attack.
There are concrete measures in the bill that will strengthen public safety, and that’s why the Liberals support it, Trudeau said Wednesday. Appropriate oversight and review mechanisms should address Liberal concerns, he added.