Warning that an “international jihadist movement” has declared war on Canada and its allies, Stephen Harper says his government plans to bring in new legislation shortly after the Commons winter break to give security agencies more powers to thwart terrorist attacks.
He made the comments on Thursday during a visit to Vancouver, one day after gunmen killed 12 people at the Paris offices of a satirical weekly that had published cartoons making fun of the founder of Islam.
“We are looking at additional powers to make sure that our security agencies have the range of tools available to them to identify potential terror threats and to …[undertake] detentions and arrests and other actions where necessary,” he said.
Mr. Harper said Canada and its allies face a war from Islamic extremists and should expect to do so for some time. “I don’t say this out of any particular pleasure or excitement, but it is a fact,” he said.
“The fact of the matter is this, ladies and gentleman: The internationaljihadist movement has declared war. They have declared war on anybody who does not think and act exactly as they wish they would think and act. They have declared war and are already executing it on a massive scale on a whole range of countries with which they are in contact,” Mr. Harper said.
“And they have declared war on any country like ourselves that values freedom, openness and tolerance. And we may not like this and wish it would go away, but it is not going to go away and the reality is we are going to have to confront it.”
Critics have already raised concerns that Ottawa could trample civil rights by overreacting to attacks in Canada and abroad.
The Prime Minister said the Conservatives have been trying to ensure the planned new anti-terrorism measures do not go too far.
“We want to make sure that we get a balance – that we protect the rights of Canadians and also the security of Canadians. We must protect both,” he said. “I anticipate that we will be moving forward very early in the new sessions with additional legislative proposals.”
The Commons resumes sitting on Jan. 26.
Justin Trudeau’s Liberals declined to comment on Thursday when asked about Mr. Harper’s statement that jihadis are waging war against Canada and its allies.
The Conservatives have been weighing new tools to deal with citizens who openly support terrorist attacks on Canadians or back groups that promote this goal, as well as additional powers or measures for police and agencies that monitor terrorist groups. The government has signalled it is also looking at lowering the threshold for preventive arrests.
Mr. Harper said the overrun of Iraq and Syria by the Islamic State militants last year is only one example of the conflict. He cited attacks on soldiers in Canada and a December hostage-taking in Sydney, Australia, in which two hostages died.
Canada’s military interventions in Iraq – both advisers and air strikes against militants – are a response to the rising conflict, the Prime Minister said.
“That is what obviously we are doing in concert with our allies – dealing with the very worst manifestation of this – which is an entire jihadist army that is now occupying large parts of Iraq and Syria and obviously other things we are doing both here and in concert with our allies to try and prevent and deal with terrorist planning on our own soil.”
Mr. Harper said he thinks the situation will persist for years.
“This is going to be unfortunately the reality of the world that I think we are living with for some time to come and we’re just going to have to face that head-on and deal with it. And that’s what our government is prepared to do.”
The government tabled legislation in late October to expand the powers of CSIS, Canada’s spy agency, but it made clear those changes were in the works before attacks on Canadian soldiers in October in which two people died and a gunman breached Parliament’s Centre Block.
STEVEN CHASE AND DARRYL HOL
OTTAWA and VANCOUVER — The Globe and Mail
Published Thursday, Jan. 08 2015, 3:33 PM EST
Last updated Thursday, Jan. 08 2015, 11:44 PM EST