Ontario PCs will table bill to strip returning extremist fighters of license, benefits
Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government will table a bill next week that strips returning terrorists of their driver’s licenses and benefits, Premier Doug Ford and MP Dave Smith confirmed on Twitter
“If you leave Canada to go fight for ISIS, you should not be welcomed back with open arms. Since Justin Trudeau doesn’t seem to take this seriously, MPP @DaveSmithPtbo is taking action to send a message that there are consequences for leaving Ontario to commit indefensible crimes,” Ford tweeted Friday night.
The tweet confirmed the tabling of a bill called the Terrorist Activities Sanctions Act. Peterborough-Kawartha MPP Dave Smith, who is sponsoring the bill, confirmed to Global News that he will be tabling the bill next week.
“I have had numerous people come up to me with concerns, they want to know that a convicted terrorist cannot walk around freely without real consequences. If they are not in a jail cell, they do not deserve the same privileges of every Ontarian. Some acts are unforgivable,” Smith told Global News in a statement.
The bill amends several acts to provide repercussions for individuals convicted under any sections 83.18 to 83.221 of the Criminal Code. The sections cover activities including, participating in or facilitating terror activities as well as harbouring known terrorists and promoting terrorism offences. It’s important to note that section 83.19 specifically covers those who leave Canada to commit acts of terrorism.
WATCH: Canadians expect returning ISIS fighters to face justice: Bergen
Under the Terrorist Activities Sanctions Act, anyone convicted of terrorist offences under those sections of the criminal code will not be eligible for a hunting or fishing license, health insurance benefits, a driver’s license, special needs housing, rent-to-geared income assistance, grants or loans for post-secondary education, disability income support or workplace safety insurance.
Furthermore, the child of a parent who is convicted is considered “in need of protection” under the Child Youth and Family Services Act, which allows the state to explore alternative custody arrangements for the child – permanently or temporarily – should it be deemed appropriate.
“No matter where in the world the act was committed, that’s not what Canada is about. Once convicted they do not deserve the privileges Ontarians are proud to hold dear,” Smith added.
The initiative seems to follow an exchange in the House of Commons Question Period earlier this week where Conservative Party Leader Andrew Scheer questioned Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about whether he’d “invited” a British national suspected of engaging in terrorist activities to Canada.
“This government proactively reached out to try to bring this individual, who has fought with a terrorist organization, back to Canada. They took it upon themselves to reach out to bring this individual to Canada, why?” Scheer demanded on Tuesday.
WATCH: Scheer demands explanation from Liberals for ‘proactively reaching out’ to Jihadi Jack
Trudeau responded to Scheer’s questions broadly, stating that his government takes “with the utmost seriousness, the threats posed by travelling extremists.”
The individual referenced by Scheer is Jack Letts, a Muslim convert, who traveled to Syria in 2014. The British press eventually nicknamed him “Jihadi Jack.” Letts is a U.K. citizen, but obtained a Canadian citizenship through his father.
WATCH: Parents of ‘Jihadi Jack’ appeal to Canada for help
Hundreds of ISIS foreign fighters, as well as their wives and children, have been captured by the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces. Letts is one of several Canadians being held by Kurdish authorities, though he and his parents have denied his involvement in any extremist activity.
The U.K. has made it clear they will not assist him in any way, and because of his Canadian citizenship, Ottawa has stepped in to help, though they’ve made it clear there’s little they can do.
A transcript between Letts and Global Affairs Canada released to Global News shows that officials have reached out to Letts and some of the other detainees.
In the wake of Ford’s statements, former CSIS analyst Phil Gurski posted his thoughts on the bill, primarily criticizing Ford for infringing on a crime he states should be “prosecuted at the federal level.”
“Look, I am just as enraged about Canadians who fought for IS as the next citizen and I think that they should face charges upon their return – if they return, which I am also against for reasons I have spelled out on many occasions. However, who does Doug Ford think he is to say that he can do what he says he can?” he wrote.
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