Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada

April 23, 2010 12:53 ET

Government of Canada Introduces Combating Terrorism Act

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - April 23, 2010) - The Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and Member of Parliament for Niagara Falls, and Mr. Daniel Petit, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Member of Parliament for Charlesbourg-Haute-Saint-Charles today introduced the Combating Terrorism Act.

"The Combating Terrorism Act will provide more tools for police and prosecutors to prevent and investigate terrorist activities," said Minister Nicholson. "These provisions are necessary to protect our country from the threat of terrorism."

The investigative hearing provisions of the Bill would amend the Criminal Code to allow the Courts to compel a witness who may have information regarding a terrorism offence to appear in court and provide information. 

The proposed recognizance with conditions provisions would require a person to enter into an agreement before a judge to abide by certain conditions in order to prevent the carrying out of a terrorist activity. It is designed to aid in the disruption of the preparatory phase of terrorist activity. 

These provisions were originally created by the Anti-terrorism Act in 2001, and were subject to a 5-year sunset clause. In February 2007, a government resolution to extend the investigative hearing and recognizance with conditions provisions for another three years was voted down in the House of Commons and they expired on March 1, 2007.

The proposed legislation would add safeguards to those already included in the original legislation to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of individuals who may be subject to these provisions.

"The first duty of every government is to protect the safety and security of its citizens, while also ensuring the protection of their fundamental rights," said Mr. Petit. "We strongly believe that these amendments improve upon the original legislation."

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Backgrounder: The Combating Terrorism Act – Investigative Hearings and Recognizance with Conditions Provisions

In 2001, the Anti-terrorism Act (ATA) introduced in the Criminal Code two important and necessary provisions in the fight against terrorism – investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions. These were enacted to help prevent terrorist activities from being carried out and to provide law enforcement with assistance in investigating terrorism offences.
Investigative hearings and Recognizance with conditions 

  1. The Investigative Hearings

This bill would seek to amend the Criminal Code to reinstate an investigative hearings power. This would give a judge the power, on application by a peace officer, to compel someone with information about a terrorism offence that has been or will be committed to appear before him or her and answer questions. 
Numerous safeguards would be attached to this power. For example: (a) the use of an investigative hearing would require the consent of the Attorney General; (b) the person compelled to appear would have the ability to retain and instruct counsel at any stage of the proceedings; (c) reasonable attempts would first have to be made to obtain the information by other means; and (d) the information provided by the person or anything derived from the information generally could not be used against them in any criminal proceeding.
The annual reporting requirements for these provisions would also require the Attorney General of Canada and the Minister of Public Safety to provide their opinion, supported by reasons, on whether these provisions should be extended.

  1. Recognizance with Conditions

Much of existing criminal law is designed to find and punish those responsible for acts that have already occurred. This approach is often inadequate for terrorist crimes, which are aimed at creating fear and instability by targeting the general population and where the perpetrator may commit suicide when carrying out the attack. 
This bill seeks to reinstate in the Criminal Code a recognizance with conditions provision, which is intended to help law enforcement officers disrupt terrorist attacks. 
If a peace officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a terrorist activity will be carried out and reasonable grounds to suspect that the imposition of a recognizance with conditions on a particular person is necessary to prevent a terrorist activity from being carried out, then the peace officer could apply to a judge to have the person compelled to appear before him or her. 

Bringing the person before the court allows the judge to consider whether it is desirable to impose reasonable conditions on the person. The court could impose such conditions or could release the person without conditions. The burden would be on the government to show why conditions should be imposed. If the person refuses to accept conditions, the court could commit that person to prison for up to 12 months.

The use of recognizance with conditions would be available under strictly defined conditions and would be subject to numerous procedural safeguards.

Contact Information

  • Office of the Minister of Justice
    Pamela Stephens
    Press Secretary
    613-992-4621
    or
    Department of Justice Canada
    Media Relations
    613-957-4207
    www.canada.justice.gc.ca