Canada’s Anti-terror Law – Bill C-51 explained

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The Canada’s Anti-Terror Law was adopted in 2001 and amended in 2016 to criminalize terrorist acts and offences and the provision of financing for criminal purposes and activities. Bill C-51 amends the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) Act, Canada Evidence Act, Official Secrets Act, and Criminal Code.

Scope and Offences

Committing an offence in association, at the direction of, and on behalf of a terrorist organization or group is punishable by law. Concealing a person who is likely to or has already committed a terrorist act and inciting or instructing to commit such acts also constitute an offence. This also holds for contributing and participating in radical groups that plan on carrying attacks.

Security Intelligence

The Canada Anti-Terrorism Act amends the National Defense Act by authorizing the Communications Security Establishment to provide operational and technical assistance to security agencies and law enforcement and provide and make use of foreign intelligence. It is in the powers of CSE to provide services, advice, and guidance regarding key infrastructure and electronic information and conduct foreign active and defensive cyber operations. Active operations involve the use of web capabilities to interfere, respond, influence, and disrupt the activities and intentions of organizations, states, foreign individuals. Defensive cyber operations are conducted upon consultation with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of Defence. The goal is to impede foreign cyber threats that aim to disrupt elections infrastructure or steal data about Canadian citizens. Authorization is only given for activities that will not obstruct justice or cause bodily harm or death.

The Communications Security Establishment also provides information about kidnappings, terrorism, espionage, and cyber threats and assists policy and decision making in security, defence, and international affairs. It plays a key role in protecting Canada’s national interests by identifying groups and extremists that seek to train, radicalize, and attract individuals to commit terrorist attacks.

Additionally, CSE offers operational and technical assistance to the Department of National Defence, Canadian Armed Forces, CBSA, CSIS, and RCMP.

Security of Information

The Canada Anti-Terrorism Law amends the Official Secrets Act, Privacy Act, and Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. The goal is to empower the federal government to keep national security information confidential, increase systemic flexibility, and counteract espionage that can harm Canadian interests. Such potential harms to Canada are weapons of mass destruction, destroying critical infrastructure, and terrorist acts.

Bill C-51 and the Criminal Code

The amendment defines new terrorism offence as deliberately promoting or advocating terrorism and authorizes law enforcement to detain or arrest a person who is likely to commit a terrorist act. The act introduces the concept of terrorist propaganda and allows for its forfeiture

Bill C-51 also repeals obsolete provisions under the Criminal Code such as pretending to practice witchcraft, publishing blasphemous libel, and challenging another to a duel.

What Canadians Think of Bill C-51

A report published by Public Safety Canada and based on 58,000 responses collected online and at round tables and town halls shows that the majority of Canadians want to see Bill C-51 repealed or scaled back. Both organizations and individuals are skeptical about the amendment and the extent to which the new measures may infringe their rights and freedoms.

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