31 October 2014

MacKay makes the right noises

With all the feverish reaction from politicians and a good part of the media to the two recent "terrorist" incidents, it is encouraging to hear Justice Minister Peter McKay say some of the right things, specifically that the law already has the tools it needs to deal with these kind of crimes. No need for muscling up the cops. "There are already some pretty robust measures that we can use [that] allow for the type of preventive … interventions—if I can use that word—for the police," he told reporters.

He referred to Section 83.3 of the Criminal Code, which allows for preventive arrests, and Section 810, which deals with peace bonds. Human rights lawyer Paul Copeland observed that Section 83.3, "could have been applied and should have been applied to Mr. Couture-Rouleau, and it probably would have stopped him from doing what he did."

MacKay also seemed to dismiss the idea, rumoured around Ottawa, that the government might try to eliminate the requirement that a judge sign off on a Section 83.3 order, giving discretion solely to the minister of public safety. "I always would come down on the side of judicial oversight before you would make any interventions,” he said. That sounds about right.

Now if he can only talk some sense into Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney who is not only proceeding with Bill C-44, which expands the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), but has promised yet more legislation dealing with "terrorism." Blaney is the guy who once insisted that terrorism was "the leading threat to Canada's national security," overlooking such minor threats as nuclear war, traffic accidents, climate change, the flu, domestic abuse, and so on and on. What we need at this time is more oversight over our spies, not more power for them. Let us hope that Mr. MacKay's bout of rationalism infects Mr. Blaney.

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