By Joan Bryden, The Canadian Press
OTTAWA – Justin Trudeau’s Liberals will vote in favour of the government’s new anti-terrorism bill, despite concerns that it provides no mechanisms to guard against abuse of the new powers it would give security agencies.
If the Conservative government refuses to amend the bill to address those concerns, Trudeau says Liberals will still support it â€” but will fix the flaws should they win the coming election.
“The current government can accept that Canadians want greater oversight and accountability, or it will give us the opportunity to offer that directly to Canadians in the upcoming election campaign,” the Liberal leader said Wednesday.
Liberals want the bill amended to provide for parliamentary oversight of security agencies and a mechanism to require mandatory review of the legislation in the years to come.
The bill would give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service more power to thwart suspected terrorists’ travel plans, disrupt bank transactions and covertly interfere with radical websites.
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 arrest and detention.
And it would create a new criminal offence: encouraging someone to carry out a terrorist attack.
Trudeau said Liberals welcome measures to build on the powers of preventative arrest, expand the no-fly regime and enhance co-ordinated information sharing among government departments and agencies.
But he added: “I believe that when a government asks its citizens to give up even a small portion of their liberty, it is that government’s highest responsibility to guarantee that its new powers will not be abused.
“It is not enough … for a government to say simply, ‘Trust us.’ That trust must be earned. It must be checked and it must be renewed.”
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has repeatedly brushed off demands for parliamentary oversight, maintaining that sufficient oversight mechanisms already exist. He repeated that stance Wednesday in the House of Commons.
New Democrats have also been demanding parliamentary oversight. It is not yet clear whether the official Opposition will refuse to support the bill without amendments or take an approach similar to the Liberals.
By promising to support the bill but fix it later, Liberals hope to immunize themselves from Conservative attacks that they’re soft on terrorism.
Trudeau’s popular support has slid somewhat since he chose last fall to oppose Canada’s participation in international airstrikes against Islamic extremists in Iraq.