The Libs and Cons may disagree on whether it is either useful or an egregious invasion of privacy and civil liberties that Canadians should have to spend a few minutes registering a long gun online, but when it comes to locking Canadians up for 12 months without a warrant or compelling them to appear before a court based on some anonymous tip, they're both just fine with that.
The right to remain silent, the right not to be jailed without charge, the right to know what the charges are against you - pfft!
In reintroducing Bill C-17 for the third time on Monday to reinstate provisions from the Anti-terrorism Act of 2001, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson emphasized a fabulous new feature:
"The key here is that the person required to attend an investigative hearing is treated as a witness, not someone who is accused of a crime."True, as long as your definition of "witness" includes being arrested if you don't comply and being detained for up to 72 hours if you do.
But what if you are also suspected of being likely to commit a terrorist crime some time in the future. Over to you, Mr. Nicholson :
"a judge can order the person's detention for up to 12 months."There's a five year sunset clause again and every 12 months the Attorney General and the Public Safety Minister - that would be Nicholson himself and Vic lock-'em-up Toews respectively - must "provide their opinions, supported by reasons, as to whether the operations of these provisions should be extended."
On Monday Liberal critic for Public Safety & National Security Mark Holland made some noises about balancing national security with individual liberty and noted :
"the government has completely ignored most of the key recommendations that came from Justice O'Connor [re Maher Arar], which were supported by Justice Iacobucci and were repeated by the RCMP Public Complaints Commissioner Paul Kennedy"but then two days later, he voted for it along with the rest of the Libs.
There were hours and hours of speeches in the House this Monday and Tuesday :
Lib Marlene Jennings said right off the bat on Monday that the Libs would be voting for C-17 to proceed to committee.
NDP Joe Comartin noted "there is no crime related to terrorism not already included in the Criminal Code."
Bloc Maria Mourani : Arar. CSIS supports info gained via torture. Why would we give them even more secret powers?
NDP Wayne Marston worried we were slipperysloping into 12thC pre-Magna Carta sensibilities.
Con Colin Carrie was the first to accuse "the coalition" of being "soft on terror".
Bloc Serge Ménard noted that under the War Measures Act "almost all candidates who ran against Mayor Drapeau [in the Montreal elections] were incarcerated. A law which goes so far as to incarcerate political opponents has already been used once in our history," he said.
NDP Don Davies brought up the "preventative arrest of 1,100 Canadians arrested at G20 for simply walking in the street" and asked why a government so against turning people into criminals for refusing to answer the long form census was at the same time happy to lock people up for refusing to answer questions based merely on suspicion?
Lib Derek Lee said Canadians already don't have the legal right to remain silent. (He's wrong about that.)
NDP Bill Siksay noted that security certificates were intended to expedite deportation of non-citizens yet they have been used instead to jail people for up to eight years without a trial. Slippery slope.
As I said - hours and hours of debate.
By Wednesday Libby Davies wondered aloud in the House why there were hundreds of articles in newspapers across the country dealing with the gun registry but no mention of the debate on the Combating Terrorism Act.
Good question, Libby.
Here's another. After much initial huffing about how absolutely vital this bill is in the fight against 'terrorists', and with the Libs onside since June 2009, the Cons have allowed it to languish in limbo for a whole 15 months. Now suddenly it's back on their agenda again as the first government order tabled on the return of the House this week. Why is that?