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[TORONTO] Canada will introduce new legislation aimed at giving more powers to its police and security agencies in the wake of two attacks by Muslim converts last year, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Sunday.
Harper, whose ruling Conservatives are trailing in polls heading into a federal election this year, said the new laws will be put before Parliament next Friday.
Security officials have been on alert since a gunman attacked Canada's Parliament in October, fatally shooting a soldier at a nearby war memorial. The attack by a so-called "lone wolf" Canadian citizen came two days after another Canadian convert ran down two soldiers in Quebec, killing one. "These measures are designed to help authorities stop planned attacks, get threats off our streets, criminalize the promotion of terrorism, and prevent terrorists from travelling and recruiting others," he said in the prepared text of speech in Ottawa. "It will contain a range of measures to ensure that our police and security agencies have the tools they need to meet evolving threats, and keep Canadians safe." Harper said the new legislation, which he did not describe in detail, would not infringe on constitutionally protected rights to free speech, association and religion. "But neither will we under-react, because the big picture, my friends, is very worrisome," he said. "Jihadi terrorists are destabilizing large parts of the globe." After the Parliament attack, Canada's Conservative government introduced a bill to enhance the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) spy agency. It said at the time it would also present other legislation designed to allow police to pre-empt threats and crack down on hate speech.
Experts, including constitutional lawyers, have noted that law enforcement agencies already have wide-ranging powers at their disposal and could use rarely tapped provisions in Canada's Anti-Terrorism Act.
The 2013 Combating Terrorism Act introduced new powers and penalties aimed at least in part at preventing such attacks. It also allows for preventative detention and interrogating suspects before any charges are laid in certain circumstances.
Lawyers have said the fact that these options have been rarely tapped by authorities is a sign that more regular techniques and procedures are sufficient for now.