Loading articles...

Lessons can be learned from Boston attacks: public safety minister

SWAT team members aim their guns as they search for a Boston Marathon bombing suspect at an apartment building on April 19, 2013 in Watertown, Mass. GETTY IMAGES/Mario Tama

Lessons can be learned by the twin explosions at the Boston Marathon, Canada’s public safety minister said Sunday.

The bombings killed three people and wounded over 180, prompting a massive U.S. security operation involving thousands of police officers to catch those responsible.

One suspect is now dead and the other is in custody.

Canadian security forces are equipped and prepared to respond to these kinds of incidents, Vic Toews told CTV’s Question Period on Sunday.

One important lesson is that all levels of policing and government must work together in the event of a terrorist attack, Toews said.

“We can always learn from this type of horrific experience,” Toews said.

“I’m certain that police forces right across Canada are re-examining their plans in order to determine what can we do better in order to prepare for this type of possibility.”

Meanwhile, the House of Commons will debate a piece of legislation on Monday that would give police more powers in the event of a terrorist attacks.

Various versions of the Combating Terrorism Act have been kicked around Parliament for at least the last five years, and the one currently under debate was introduced in the Senate in February 2012.

Among other things, it creates a new criminal offence that would apply to people leaving Canada for the purpose of committing certain terrorist acts abroad.

Toews would not give an example of when the elements of the new law might have been useful in the past, but he said they’ve been requested by law enforcement officials.

Nor would he comment on ongoing investigations into the case of four young men in London, Ont., implicated in a bombing at a gas plan in Algeria earlier this year.

He said if there was a threat to public safety connected to that investigation, the public will be informed.

At least 50 Canadians have travelled to tried to travel from Canada to Somalia, the Afghanistan-Pakistan tribal areas, Syria and Yemen in recent years to engage in terrorism-related activities, Canadian security agencies estimate.

“The spectre of these young people returning to Canada—with combat experience and thoroughly radicalized views—is a serious national security concern,” Michel Coulombe, the deputy director of operations for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service agency told MPs studying the bill last year.

The bill had had been ready to received a third debate in the Commons since February, and on Friday was suddenly placed on the calendar for this coming week.

NDP Foreign Affairs critic Paul Dewar questioned the timing.

“They could have brought this forward weeks ago, months ago,” Dewar told Question Period.

“Sadly what they’re doing here is that they’re using this an opportunity to in some ways look like they’re doing something.”

The Liberals have indicated they will support the bill, though the decision to have it debated on Monday and Tuesday has pushed back a motion of their own which would strip party whips of their power to decide which MPs are allowed to make members’ statements in the House of Commons.