Bill expands witness protection to fight terrorism, organized crime

Canada’s spy and defence agencies — not just police — would be able to refer people to the federal witness-protection program under changes proposed Tuesday.

OTTAWA — Canada’s spy and defence agencies — not just police — would be able to refer people to the federal witness-protection program under changes proposed Tuesday.

The Safer Witnesses Act, tabled in the House of Commons, is aimed at more effectively tackling terrorism and organized crime, said Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.

“We know that organized crime is becoming more global, transnational and pervasive,” he said.

“In some cases, law enforcement relies on the co-operation of individuals formerly involved with these organizations in order to disrupt their activities or successfully prosecute the ringleaders.”

The federal witness program, administered by the RCMP, shields people who help authorities by providing everything from short-term protection to permanent relocation and identity changes.

However, Toews said there will be no new money for the Mounties to broaden the witness program and any additional funding must be found within the national police force’s existing budget.

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