US & Canada

Canada PM Harper calls for expanded terror laws

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks at a news conference in Richmond Hill, Ontario January 30, 2015 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption "Violent jihadism is not a human right," Stephen Harper said. "It is an act of war."

Encouraging terror attacks against Canada will become a crime under legislation proposed by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The measure will also expand the powers of the country's spy agency, allowing it to take direct action to stop attacks.

Work began on the bill after two attacks days apart last year.

It is expected to be passed by Mr Harper's Conservative majority in Parliament.

Under current law it is a crime to make a specific threat. The new measure would make it crime to call for a terror attack against the country or Canadians generally, including online.

"We cannot tolerate this any more than we tolerate people that make jokes about bomb threats at airports," Mr Harper said.

Image copyright EPA
Image caption The legislation has been expected since the killing of a Canadian soldier at Ottawa's National War Memorial

"Anyone engaging in that kind of activity is going to face the full force of the law in the future."

The maximum prison sentence for those convicted under the new measure would be five years.

Among the critics of the bill are the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association which called the legislation "misguided" and said it would not make Canadians "any safer".

"We will be less free, less democratic and less likely to know who to keep an eye on," policy director Michael Vonn said, adding it was "likely unconstitutional".

Canada's two main opposition parties have said they have not decided whether to back the bill, the CBC reports.

The Canadian government promised the legislation after a gunman shot and killed a soldier at the National War Memorial in Ottawa in October and then attacked Canada's Parliament Buildings nearby.

Two days before, a man, said to be inspired by the Islamic State group, ran over two soldiers in a parking lot in Quebec, killing one and injuring the other before being shot to death.

Among the other changes in the bill

  • anyone suspected of being involved in a terror plot may be detained without charge for up to seven days
  • officials may remove material considered terrorist propaganda from any website
  • Canada's spy agency may direct approach subjects and cancel travel reservations, with judicial approval

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