Potential changes to National Security Regime following Couture-Rouleau attack
By Brittney MacDonald, Staff Writer
Prior to Martin Couture-Rouleau’s October 20 targeted hit-and run-attack on Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, and one other soldier in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Couture-Rouleau had been posting radical, pro-ISIS messages to his Facebook page.
The revelation has led the Conservative government to announce its consideration of including additional laws criminalizing public support of suspected extremist and terrorist groups in their upcoming re-examination of the Canadian national security regime, roughly scheduled for later this year.
The specifics of the law changes have not yet been revealed publicly, but in a statement to CBC, Jennifer Geary, a representative for Justice Minister Peter MacKay, stated:
“Our government is exploring options to build on our record to better equip our security agencies and law enforcement with the tools they need to intercept threats and ultimately convict those who pose a danger to Canadian families and communities.”
Couture-Rouleau had been under investigation and his passport seized, but according to RCMP Superintendent Martine Fontaine in a public statement, “We did not have enough evidence to charge him and to detain him.”
Fontaine went on to say, “We could not arrest someone for having radical thoughts. It’s not a crime in Canada.”
Concern has been raised at the ambiguity of what defines public endorsement of suspected extremist groups. Independent Member of Parliament, Brent Rathgeber raised the issue to CBC news, asking, “If one is opposed to the Israeli actions in Gaza, does that make her an anti-Semite? If one is against Operation Impact [an American military mission seeking out ISIS agents in Syria and Iraq], is that a ‘pro-ISIS sentiment’?”
According to Rathgeber, “This is a very slippery slope … and is going to have to be dispassionately and reasonably debated.” He also voiced doubt in the government’s ability to adhere to an unbiased approach, saying, “I see little evidence the government is interested in a collaborative approach, which is unfortunate given what is at stake…”
Various other members of Parliament from many different parties, as well as some independents have decided to reserve judgement until the details of the bill have been released.
Last year the Conservative government removed specifics on hate speech from the Canadian Human Rights Act, and instead added offences of hate speech to the Criminal Code. The decision did not go unopposed due to the removal of power from the federal Human Rights Commission to investigate such matters, and instead making any offence punishable for up to two years in prison.