Canada, France Pass Sweeping Anti-Terrorism Legislation

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As national debate in the United States turns toward curtailing the Patriot Act, Canada and France are ramping up their own anti-terrorism legislation.

In Canada, the House of Commons passed the Anti-Terrorism Act on May 6, also known as Bill C-51. The new legislation gives Canada’s spy agency, CSIS, more power to collect information and intervene in suspected terrorist plots, increases the exchange of federal security information, expands no-fly list powers, strengthens the RCMP’s ability to detain someone for longer periods of time, and allows spies to obtain a warrant to knowingly break the law to disrupt perceived security threats. The bill also creates a new criminal offense: encouraging someone to commit a terrorist attack.

The bill received support from Canada’s Conservative majority government and the Liberals, while it was adamantly denounced by the New Democrats and Greens. The bill now goes to Canada’s rubber-stamp Senate where it is expected to be quickly passed into law.

Opposition to the legislation has come from libertarians, environmental groups, and Canada’s federal privacy commissioner. Concerns include the breach of personal privacy and potential abuses of power. Environmental and indigenous rights groups are especially concerned. Protestors from these groups have been marked as national security threats by security agencies.

A day before Canada passed their anti-terrorism legislation, members of the French National Assembly passed anti-terrorism legislation of their own. The French bill would allow intelligence agencies to tap suspects’ phones and emails, place hidden cameras in homes, and trackers on cars—all without a judge’s warrant. The legislation also requires communications and Internet firms to allow security agencies to install devices that would record all metadata from all Internet and phone users in France.

The bill received support from France’s Socialist majority government as well as the conservative opposition. The bill will now be examined in the Senate, where a vote is expected sometime later this month.

Critics of the legislation contend that it allows for intrusive surveillance methods and violates personal privacy. Reporters Without Borders stated its concern that the bill “poses a grave new threat to the confidentiality of journalists’ sources.”

Canada and France both have experienced recent extremist attacks. In Paris, attacks on the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo and elsewhere in the city killed 20 people. In October, a lone-wolf attacker killed one soldier at the Canada’s national legislature in Ottawa that forced the national capital into lock-down weeks after the deliberate hit-and-run murder of a Canadian soldier. Canadian authorities linked both incidents to terrorism.

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