Bill C-51 weighed by observers in wake of recent terror attacks

Mar 28, 2016 | News

Sam Juric

Terrorism has pervaded the pages of newspapers around the world and online media outlets in the week following the deadly twin blasts in Brussels and the recent gruesome suicide bombings in Lahore.

Coverage of both attacks is unavoidable across all media platforms.

The damage is personified by the number of dead, which continues to rise in the wake of the Brussels attack with 35 dead and 270 others wounded.

At least 70 lives have been lost following a devastating suicide attack in Pakistan’s second largest city on Sunday. At least 14 of the dead have been identified as Christian and 44 as Muslim.

Of the dead, 12 people remain unidentified.

The attack took place in a crowded park in Lahore filled with hundreds of people, and the Lahore bombing stresses a history of unrest caused by years of terrorism in Pakistan.

There is a discrepancy between the media coverage on both attacks said David Benson Skilicorn, professor of Counterterrorism at Queen’s University.

“It’s not hard to see that there are differences,” Skilicorn told Humber News.

“Partly it’s because North Americans care about North American attacks, but it’s also true westerners do not pay as much attention to attacks in other parts of the world, unless they are dramatically more deadly.”

Canadians were also confronted with news of terror.

Kevin Mohamed was detained on fears of terrorism by the RCMP on Saturday following a tweet asking how to alter a video game to emulate the terror which unfolded at Zaventem airport in Brussels.

The 23-year-old University of Waterloo student’s detainment points to the changes in Canada’s terrorism laws.

“They’ll have to submit a request for recognizance, and with that they’re going to have to layout their investigative materials that lead them to think this ‘individual may engage,” said Dawson.

He added that that’s the new language implemented by Canada’s controversial anti-terrorism legislation, Bill C-51.

“It used to be that they had to prove that the individual was likely to engage in a terrorist attack, now they only have to prove that they ‘may’ engage in an attack, which is a lighter condition,” he said.

As the threat of terrorism rises, intelligence organizations will continue to grapple with how to respond to individuals like Mohamed.

“Intelligence organizations have this problem that people go from wannabes to operatives carrying out moderately serious attacks,” said Skilicorn.

“Their challenge, even when they detect someone like this, is when should I pull the pin and arrest this guy? It’s impossible to get right,” said Skilicorn.

Most of Mohamed’s online activity was of a theological or religious nature.

“There is stuff there but not enough that we think would be really cause for concern,” Dawson said.

The outcome of Mohamed’s case will be dependent on the material revealed in court, and Dawson said It’s hard to say if Bill C-51 has more of a capacity to protect or harm people.

“I suppose our concern would be that if they start to revert to these measures a little to commonly, then eventually we’re probably going to have people who are going to have their freedom curtailed because they have expressed ideas that we don’t like,” he said.

“That then of course becomes very problematic in a democracy where freedom of expression is absolutely a pillar of all of our freedom.”