Monday, May 24, 2010

Segal Out of Place as Head of Anti-Terror Committee

Hugh Segal elected to chair Senate committee on anti-terror laws

Conservative Senator Hugh Segal has been elected to chair a special Senate committee on anti-terror laws. The committee will examine two anti-terror bills, including Bill C-17, which will restore anti-terror laws that sunsetted in 2007.

"It was an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to investigative hearings," Segal explained. "Whether somebody could be held because there was a suspicion that they had either been involved in a terrorist act, or had information about a coming terrorist act, and what were their rights in that process, and what were the rights of the Crown."

In order to make decisions regarding the legislation, the committee will investigate the overall terrorism situation in Canada.

"We're going to be working on an update of what is the state of the terrorist threat in Canada (and) how has that threat changed in the last five years," Segal explained.

Segal has proven to be an adept thinker on numerous policy issues. But terrorism-related issues isn't one of his strengths.

Pierre Trudeau's decision to invoke the War Measures Act during the October Crisis of 1970 has been a controversial one in Canadian history. Segal, who was a student at the University of Ottawa at the time, has been an outspoken critic of that decision.

The limitation of civil rights is not a matter to be taken lightly at any time. But the kidnapping of British Trade Commissioner James Cross and Pierre Laporte, a Quebec cabinet Minister, limited Trudeau's options in responding to the crisis.

Invoking the War Measures Act was a necessary part of the response to the threat posed by the FLQ. It introduced a crucial element of control into the situation, allowing the government to account for the activities of FLQ sympathizers who may have aided the terrorists.

The crus of the matter was, of course, that the Trudeau government had, through its own negligence, allowed the situation to grow out of control.

Unless Segal's views on the October Crisis have changed drastically in short order, it may not be unreasonable to suggest that Segal isn't up to the task of making decisions in regards to terrorism -- particularly when Segal himself seems to understand that the nature of current terrorist threats represents a more fractious, less centralized structure.

"We now face a threat that is more diffuse, in other words it's not somebody in a cave sending instructions to cells around the world," Segal said. "But rather self-identifying cells of individuals deciding they are frustrated with this, that or other, and they want to use terrorism as a means of making their point."

In his favaour, Segal seems to understand that the government cannot afford to repeat the preemptive failures of the Trudeau government.

"When you have individuals who [are] more than prepared to die, then that of course provides a preventative challenge," Segal declared. "So it changes the dynamic of the challenge and makes it more complex, all the more reason to make sure we're doing it in the best possible way."

But while Hugh Segal may be more than willing to do what is necessary to prevent terrorist attacks, he needs to show concerned parties that he's willing to do what is necessary if those preventative measures fail.

Otherwise, his chairing the Senate committee on anti-terrorism is a mistake.

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