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CSIS to get more anti-terror powers under new federal bill

A police officer secures the scene of a shooting on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday Oct.22, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Newly tabled anti-terrorism legislation would give Canada’s spy agency more power to thwart a suspected extremist’s travel plans, disrupt bank transactions and covertly interfere with radical websites.

The plan to boost the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s ability to counter terrorist threats flows from a review of fatal attacks on two Canadian soldiers last October — incidents the government believes were fuelled by Islamic extremism.

As expected, the bill would also make it easier for the RCMP to obtain a peace bond to restrict the movements of a suspect and it extends the period for preventative arrest and detention.

In addition, the legislation would expand the no-fly regime to cover those travelling by air to take part in terrorist activities, whereas currently there must be an immediate risk to the plane.

The bill proposes giving the RCMP power to seek a judge’s order to remove terrorist propaganda from the Internet.

It would also create a new criminal offence of encouraging a terrorism attack on Canada.

On Oct. 22, Michael Zehaf Bibeau shot Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, an honour guard at the National War Memorial, before rushing into Parliament’s Centre Block. Zehaf Bibeau was quickly gunned down.

Two days earlier, Martin Couture-Rouleau had fatally rammed Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent with a car in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. After a chase, police shot and killed the knife-wielding assailant.

It soon emerged the RCMP had been monitoring the man — who harboured jihadist sympathies — for months.

The Mounties even prevented him from travelling overseas, presumably to join militant fighters. But they did not have enough evidence to arrest him or further limit his movements, saying extreme beliefs were not a crime.

Existing law requires a fear that someone “will commit” a terrorism offence before police can obtain a peace bond — a tool that can mean jail unless a suspect abides by strict conditions, for instance that they surrender their passport and regularly report to police.

The new, lower threshold would be reasonable grounds to fear a person “may commit” a terrorism offence.

Current anti-terrorism law allows police to arrest someone without a warrant and hold them for up to three days before a hearing. Under the bill, maximum period would be extended to seven days.

Other proposed measures would:

— Allow for more information-sharing when the material — such as passport or immigration information — is relevant to an agency’s national security mandate;

— Give the government more power to object to disclosure of classified information in immigration proceedings.