Conclusion: The Need for a Re-think

AuthorCraig Forcese; Kent Roach
Conclusion: The Need for a Re-think
e terrorist attacks of October  motivated a radica l reform of Canada’s
anti-terrorism law and policy. Unfortunately, the government squandered an
opportunity for constructive and sustainable change. Instead, it quickly en-
acted politicized legislation unanchored to any publicly available account of
what went wrong, either with respect to the  terrorist attack s, or to more
horric experiences of the past — most notably, the Air India bombings.
We still have no clear explanation for why one measure — passport revo-
cation — was deployed against Couture-Rouleau, w hile others, such as peace
bonds or prosecutions, were not. Ocials told parliamentarians it had some-
thing to do with evidence, but we do not know if the October attack s were
yet another example of a failure to convert intelligence to evidence, identied
as Canada’s Achilles heel by the Air India Commission in .
We also do not have a clear accounting of what the government knew
about Zehaf-Bibeau, the Ottawa attacker. Nor do we know why the siloed
and fragmented security apparatus on Parliament Hill was not consolidated
or augmented in light of prior attacks and threats. We know that some intel-
ligence about a possible attack was circulated in t he days before the Ottawa
incident, but we do not know whether there was an adequate response. Per-
haps there are mundane explanations for al l these questions, but at present
Canadians do not even have those. A nd yet, the government told Canadians
in the winter of  that its new laws would make them safer. Canad ians
were asked to believe that the government’s new laws would do this, even
while the government dismissed and disc arded recommendations from for-
mer prime ministers, ministers, reviewers, and commissions of inquiry.
e government seemed indierent to evidence of past failures, meas-
ured either in terms of underreactions, such as the A ir India incident, or
post-/ overreactions, such as the treatment of Maher Arar. ese incidents
produced inquiries that made many recommendations about how to restruc-
ture our security strategies so that they actua lly worked and were subject to
adequate whole-of-government oversight and review. ese commissions also
proposed means to make sure that, in making us sa fer, security services were
not making us less free.
And yet, even as it loudly banged the drum on security, the only gov-
ernment ever in a position to act on these suggestions continued to disregard
evidence and lessons tabulated from a close study of mist akes made in the re-
cent past. e government also had no time for the more distant McDonald
Commission on RCMP wrongdoing in the s, whose recommendations
gave rise to our long-standing security a rrangements limiting CSIS to the
collection of intelligence. Now under the radical reforms of , CSIS will
be able to engage in physical action, even including illeg al acts that violate
Charter rights. ese da ngerous new powers are not matched with increased
oversight or review.
e Harper government deserves credit for appointing an inquiry in 
to get to the bottom of the Air India debacle. Unfortunately, however, the
government has only paid lip service to the commission’s  report and
recommendations. In particula r the government has done the following:
) In Bill C-, given CSIS sources a nd the director of CSIS a veto over
whether condential CSIS human sources c an be compelled to testif y
or to provide any identifying information in subsequent proceedings,
including terrorism and immigration proceedings. Justice Major in his
 Air India report specically rejected such an approach on the basis
that CSIS would make premature promises of condentia lity that would
make terrorism prosecutions more dicult.
) Preser ved CSIS’s discretion not to disclose its information about possible
terrorist activity to the police or others in government. e government
did this, even though it had the logica l opportunity to include such re-
forms in Bill C- while enact ing a very expansive permissive regime for
information sharing.

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