Supreme Court ruling shows Canada does take terrorism threats seriously
A few years ago, in the wake of the 9-11 terrorist attacks, there was a perception in the U.S. that Canada was too soft on terrorism. Last week's unanimous ruling by the Supreme Court of Canada upholding the country's controversial anti-terror law should help to dispel that view.
On Friday, in a 7-0 vote, the Supreme Court dismissed a series of charter appeals brought forth by three men, one of whom was a convicted terrorist who was the first person charged under Canada's anti-terror law enacted following the 9-11 attacks. The court ruling not only upheld that the law is indeed constitutional, but also sent a message that Canada does take terrorism threats seriously.
In the written ruling, Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin indicated an Ottawa trial judge was in error in giving Momin Khawaja too lenient a sentence at 10 1/2 years in prison. She added the life sentence later imposed by the Ontario Court of Appeal sent a "clear and unmistakable message that terrorism is reprehensible and those who choose to engage in it (in Canada) will pay a very heavy price."
The constitutional challenge by the three men argued that the anti-terror law was too broad, deemed harmless activity as criminal and violated the charter of rights guarantee of freedom of expression. Thankfully, the Supreme Court did not buy the argument and allow the anti-terror law to be weakened. The law needs sufficient teeth in order to discourage terrorist activities within our borders and to deal with those that do take place. Ruling in favour of the challenge would have effectively shot the law full of loopholes and handcuffed law enforcement agencies in their efforts to protect Canada and its neighbour from terrorist activities.
Speaking of neighbours, the Supreme Court ruling should send a message to the U.S. that Canada does take terrorist threats seriously and will hopefully counter perceptions to the contrary.
In June 2006, Canadian officials were prompted to defend their position after "The New Republic," an influential U.S. publication, ran an online feature with the headline "Canada's Terrorism Problem." "Islamist groups have raised money there with impunity. Dangerous men with alleged links to al-Qaida pass in and out of the country seemingly unchallenged, and some parts of the nation even have considered enacting Shariah law," the story suggested.
Such reports of lax security in Canada motivated Michael Wilson, the country's ambassador to the U.S., to suggest that top Canadian officials should visit Washington on "myth-busting" missions.
Those negative views of Canada have probably changed in recent years, aided by such efforts as the perimeter security pact between Canada and the U.S. which was unveiled a year ago. Still, Friday's Supreme Court ruling is a further indication that Canada is not soft on terrorism.
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