CAIR-CAN: Leave Religion Out of Terror Law
Jeff Salot, Globe
and Mail, 9/21/05
OTTAWA -- Courts should be able to convict people of terrorism even when there is no strong evidence of a political or religious motive for the crime, Canadian Muslim and Arab groups told a parliamentary panel reviewing the federal Anti-Terrorism Act yesterday. The current legal definition of terrorism encourages police and security officers to engage in religious or ethnic profiling and to ask highly inappropriate questions about the spiritual beliefs and practices of individuals, the groups said.
Moreover, proving motive is much tougher for police and prosecutors in terrorism cases than simply establishing the facts around the commission of a crime, the requirement in most other criminal cases, the Canadian Arab Federation, the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association and the Canadian Council on American Islamic Relations said in brief to the Commons subcommittee on national security.
The groups suggest a definition of terrorism along the lines of one adopted by the Supreme Court of Canada in a refugee case: as an act intended to cause death or serious injury to civilians in order to intimidate a population or to compel a government action.
The subcommittee is giving the Anti-Terrorism Act its first comprehensive review since Parliament adopted the tough new measures after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington.
The legislation's requirement to prove a religious or ideological motive is both "insidious and ineffective," said Ziyaad Mia, spokesman for the Muslim lawyers. "When you add religion as a motive you are saying faith is a proxy for criminality."
Conservative MP Kevin Sorenson suggested that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and other agencies have limited resources and need to focus their investigations on specific groups. "You don't send the anti-terrorist squad to investigate the Amish or the Lutheran ladies. You go to where you think the risk is."
But Riad Saloojee, the executive director of the Canadian Council on American Islamic Relations, said that if law-enforcement agents are going to use profiling, they should do so on the basis of behaviour, not ethnicity or religion.
Police and intelligence services need to earn and keep the goodwill and trust of the Islamic community to help produce "intelligent intelligence" and to avoid wasting time chasing shadows, Mr. Saloojee added. (MORE)