Canada vows tougher laws as citizens worry in face of attacks
Canada vowed on Friday to toughen laws against terrorism in ways, that critics say, may curtail civil liberties as a country that prides itself on its openness mourned the second soldier this week killed by homegrown radicals.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper joined a crowd at the National War Memorial in Ottawa to mark the death of Corporal Nathan Cirillo, who was shot by a troubled and drug-addicted convert to Islam on Wednesday while on ceremonial guard at the memorial in the centre of the country’s capital.
Behind the sombre scenes, Harper and his Conservative colleagues scrambled to beef up anti-terrorism legislation that was already in the works before the attacks. An opinion poll showed a majority of Canadians lacked confidence in their security services’ ability to deter homegrown threats.
Investigators said there was no apparent link between the two attackers -- one killed a soldier in Quebec and the other killed Cirillo in Ottawa, before they themselves were shot dead -- but Canadians worried about the parallels between them.
Police said both were Canadian citizens who had been radicalised, a term the government uses to refer to Canadians who become supporters of militant groups such as Islamic State.
Justice Minister Peter MacKay said the government would act swiftly to toughen security laws and would go beyond the terms of a bill to strengthen the powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service spy agency that was already being drafted before this week’s incidents.
“We’re looking ... to see if there is a way in fact to improve or build on those elements of the Criminal Code that allow for pre-emptive action, specifically in the area of terrorism,” MacKay told reporters in Brampton, Ontario.
A government source said legislation to be introduced next week on the spy agency would be largely unchanged from the bill that was being prepared before Wednesday’s Ottawa attack. The government will put forward more measures later, the source said, and they would include wider powers to address security threats in the wake of the attacks.
Cirillo’s body returned to his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, on Friday, in a last ride along the nation’s “Highway of Heroes”. Thousands lined portions of the 500-km route and flocked to overpasses, hanging flags as a sign of respect.
“I’m here because my son was in the reserves as well and that makes it really hit close to home,” said Gail Tomaselli, a 60-year-old resident of nearby Simcoe, Ontario, who works in health care. “Canada is a very forgiving country and I hope we haven’t lost that.”