Submission concerning the review of the Anti-terrorism Act (C-36)

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The rule of law must be restored and reaffirmed, domestically and internationally

Terrorism, like any crime or violence directed at civilians, is abhorrent. However, it is not a new phenomenon and pre-existing criminal laws (prior to the Anti-terrorism Act) and international agreements, if used properly, provide an adequate legal framework to address it. In the name of “fighting” terrorism, we must not forfeit the very democratic values and freedoms we are supposed to be protecting. We know from the hard experience of human history that respect for human rights and democratic values must be at the centre of any approach to human security. Where these rights and values are eroded or abused, the threat to human security and freedom is greater than the potential threat of one-off terrorist acts.

Indeed, draconian measures can only destroy the fundamentals of a free and democratic society and contribute little to address the root causes of terrorism. This view is echoed by Louise Arbour, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, who cautioned that national governments should be wary of undermining personal liberties in their fight against terrorism, lest it help terror groups recruit more members. She says that “more than ever, the international human-rights agenda creates a forum, maybe the only universal forum, in which conflicting views, aspirations and beliefs of a most fundamental nature can confront each other in a respectful environment.”

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