#CyberFLASH: Anti-terror bill: Critics worry about safeguarding civil liberties

Stephen HarperCanada’s new anti-terrorism legislation creates sweeping new powers for the nation’s security services, but it’s not clear there will be equally robust oversight to protect privacy, free speech or civil liberties.

Missing from the act, for instance, is a sunset clause for any of its provisions, though the Jean Chrétien Liberals put such a proviso in their anti-terrorism bill introduced after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Nor is there a mandatory review by a certain date — though this may yet be added when the bill goes to a parliamentary committee for review.

Some question whether solidifying national security will come at the expense of civil liberties.

“Countries that are free are also safer countries. Civil rights and public safety go hand-in-hand,” NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said Friday.

The government argues that existing civilian oversight bodies – at the spy agency CSIS, the cyber-spy agency CSE, and the RCMP – are adequate. And the new law does require that the public safety minister regularly report to Parliament on how CSIS is using its new powers. Prime Minister Stephen Harper also said on Friday that the government has worked protections into the bill to prevent erosion of civil liberties in the name of security.

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