Department of Justice Canada

Department of Justice Canada

March 12, 2009 10:22 ET

Government of Canada Committed to Protecting our National Security While Respecting Human Rights

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 12, 2009) - Legislation that would seek to reinstate essential Criminal Code provisions vital to combating terrorist activity while at the same time respecting human rights was introduced today by Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada, the Honourable Rob Nicholson, P.C., Q.C., M.P. for Niagara Falls.

The Anti-terrorism Act (ATA) of 2001 established two important and necessary provisions in the fight against terrorism: recognizance with conditions and investigative hearings.

Recognizance with conditions was a measure intended to help law enforcement officers disrupt terrorist attacks. Investigative hearings were designed to help gather information for the purpose of investigating a terrorism offence that had been or would have been committed. Both of these provisions were subject to a sunset clause stating they would expire in early 2007 unless a resolution to renew them was passed by Parliament.

In February 2007, a government resolution to extend the investigative hearings and the recognizance with conditions provisions was defeated in the House of Commons. This led to their expiration on March 1, 2007.

"Not having these provisions available for use creates a serious gap in Canadian law," said Minister Nicholson. "By reinstating them, this Government is demonstrating its continued commitment to safeguarding our national security, while at the same time protecting the rights and freedoms of all Canadians."

The original legislation had numerous safeguards built into it to protect human rights. The proposed legislation adds new safeguards found in the precursor to this bill, the former Bill S-3 in the 39th Parliament (passed by the Senate in March 2008). The new safeguards respond to recommendations from the two Parliamentary committees that examined these provisions as part of their review of the Anti-terrorism Act. The legislation also incorporates further amendments made by the Senate to former Bill S-3.

The proposed legislation seeks to reinstate these two provisions for a period of five years effective from the date of their enactment.




BACKGROUNDER

ATA - Recognizance with Conditions and Investigative Hearings 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.

Sunsetting of the provisions

The investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions provisions were subject to a sunset clause. In February 2007, the Government introduced motions in the House of Commons and Senate to renew these provisions for three more years. However, on February 27, 2007, the House of Commons voted against the resolution, with the result that these provisions expired on March 1, 2007.

Recognizance with conditions and Investigative hearings

(a) 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.

(b) The Investigative Hearings

This bill would also 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. The purpose of the investigative hearing is to gather information relevant to the investigation of past or future terrorism offences, not to charge or convict an individual with a criminal offence.

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.

To summarize, this proposed legislation would seek to reinstate the investigative hearings and the recognizance with conditions with the added safeguards found in former Bill S-3 as passed by the Senate in March 2008.

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Contact Information

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