The Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) became law in 2001. It amended the Criminal Code to create new terrorism offences and to give police and intelligence agencies new powers to obtain electronic search warrants and to hold investigative hearings and impose recognizance with conditions. The ATA also changed the National Defence Act to allow Canadian intelligence agencies to intercept communications of Canadians in Canada (essentially to allow spying on Canadians), and amended other laws to allow the Attorney General to prevent the disclosure of information on the grounds of national security.

The Anti-Terrorism Act makes it an offence to commit a terrorist act or to be a member of a terrorist group or provide support to a terrorist group.

“Support” to a terrorist group includes financial donations. If you provide financial support to a terrorist group you could be arrested and charged.
The investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions portions of the Anti-Terrorism Act expired on March 1, 2007. But on March 12, 2009 the federal government introduced Bill C-19 which would reinstate both investigative hearings and recognizance with conditions.

An investigative hearing is a hearing in which a particular individual can be required to answer questions from a judge and is not allowed to refuse to answer. If you were summoned to give evidence at an investigative hearing, you would not have the right to remain silent, but your evidence could not be used against you except in a trial for perjury (lying under oath).

The reinstatement of recognizance with conditions would allow a peace officer to arrest you if they believe you are about to commit a terrorist act, and bring you to court within 24 hours.  At court, the judge could order you to be held in jail for up to three days or could order that you be released so long as you promised to obey certain conditions. The judge could also order that you be released altogether. You would not be charged with any offence, and you would not be tried. If you refused to accept the conditions imposed by a judge, you could be jailed for up to a year.

This Bill is expected to pass and become law some time later in 2009.

What To Do If You Are Arrested or Detained for Anti-Terrorism Purposes

If you are arrested for anti-terrorism purposes, even if you believe you have done nothing wrong, you should immediately ask for a lawyer. Do not resist the officers, but assert your right to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible.
If you are brought before a court and required to give evidence about a suspected terrorist act, you will have a right to a lawyer, but you will not have a right to remain silent, although the evidence you give cannot be used against you later except in a trial for perjury (lying under oath).

Criticisms of the Anti-Terrorism Act

The Anti-Terrorism Act made changes to a lot of other laws with the result that individual privacy rights in Canada suffered. The ATA made it easier for law enforcement and national security agencies to obtain electronic surveillance warrants, gave the Canadian Security Establishment (CSE) the power to intercept Canadian communications, when such communications are one end of a network located overseas. It weakened independent and judicial oversight of the surveillance activities of law enforcement and security and intelligence organizations. It added to the secrecy surrounding legal proceedings, contrary to fundamental constitutional principles that courts are open to the public, and that individuals are entitled to know the charges and the evidence against them.

By making changes to many different laws, the Anti-Terrorism Act created a structure of privacy-invasive law enforcement techniques that undermine privacy rights and freedoms from many directions, and take Canada further toward a “surveillance society.”