Public Safety and Anti-terrorism (PSAT) Initiative, Summative Evaluation

5. Evaluation findings

5. Evaluation findings

This section presents the findings organized by evaluation issue.

5.1. Relevance

This section considers the relevance of the broader PSAT Initiative and the importance of the Department in supporting the objectives of the Initiative. The evaluation found that the security threats presented by terrorist organizations persist, and that the Department's role as legal advisor and (formerly, pre-PPSC) prosecutor are key components to the multidimensional response that modern terrorism requires.

Although the PSAT Initiative was established shortly after September 11th, its national security goals of protecting Canadians from terrorist attacks, keeping the borders open, and contributing to international efforts to combat terrorism have remained a priority through the years and also through changes in government. These goals were restated in the 2004 National Security Policy as “core national security interests,” and the PSAT Initiative's approach, of an integrated response to national security concerns that protect Canadians while maintaining respect for the rule of law and human rights, remained a key component.[8] The government continues to announce new policy and legislative measures that are intended to implement the Initiative's objectives.[9]

The relevance of the PSAT Initiative is seen in the persistent threat of terrorism, both domestically and abroad. While Canada is the only country expressly targeted by Al Qaeda that has not been attacked, the country continues to receive threats from that terrorist organization, the latest being in July 2006. [10] Threat assessments show that “a significant proportion of the world's terrorist groups are represented in Canada” and they consider terrorism “the most significant threat to Canada.”[11] While the activities of these groups may focus more on fund raising and support of terrorist activities beyond the Canadian border, the 2006 arrests of eighteen individuals on terrorism-related charges in the Toronto area raise the possibility that domestic terrorist groups had planned attacks within Canada.[12] In addition, the events of recent years demonstrate the continued vulnerability of the international community to terrorist attacks, with bombings and other terrorist incidents occurring in the United Kingdom, Spain, Indonesia, Israel, Iraq, Afghanistan, Thailand, Indonesia, Uzebekistan, and Bangladesh.[13]

The terrorist threat is seen as becoming increasingly complex as tactics become more deadly; the nature of terrorism broadens to include religious extremism, secessionist violence, domestic extremism, and state-sponsored terrorism; and the structure of terrorist groups becomes more dispersed, with their members acting with increasing autonomy.[14] Coupled with this complexity is the fact that the costs of terrorism are substantial, both in human and economic terms.[15] These factors, as well as those addressed above, support the continued need for an integrated governmental response that addresses prevention, detection, and prosecution.

Public response also demonstrates the continued relevance of the goals and objectives of the PSAT Initiative. While the level of public concern fluctuates with events, it has remained persistent. Shortly after the September 11th attacks, Canadians indicated heightened concerns about safety, but these feelings dissipated over time. In September 2001, 55% of Canadians polled thought that Canada would suffer from a terrorist attack in the next two years, but this dropped to 37% in 2002 and remained at that level two years later.[16] Shortly after the July 2005 London bombing, 62% of Canadians believed that the country could experience an act of terrorism, and this grew to 71% after the Toronto arrests.[17]

5.1.1. Department of Justice component's contribution

The Department's component supports the government's objectives under the PSAT Initiative. Its role, as the policy and legal advisor to the Canadian government, means that it has served a central function in the development and support of Canada's anti-terrorism legislative framework. Since the initial development of the ATA and PSA, the demand for services, in relation to PSAT activities, is consistent and substantial. This demand, and the activities of the Department, demonstrate the relevance of its component to the PSAT Initiative.

Assisting law enforcement.

By drafting legislation and policies that seek to prevent terrorist acts, the Department supports law enforcement. Specifically, the ATA includes preventative aspects in the offences, such as making it an offence to participate in the activities of a terrorist group for the purpose of “enhancing [its] ability to facilitate or carry out a terrorist activity.” The ATA also includes investigative tools, such as investigative hearings, recognizance with conditions, and preventative arrests (see Table 2 for description), which are intended to help law enforcement stop terrorist incidents before they occur. In addition, the Department's provision of legal advice and assistance to investigators and the intelligence community is intended to enhance their capacity to conduct successful investigations. This advice and assistance to law enforcement contributes indirectly, therefore, toward successful prosecutions.

Providing legal advice to government.

The Department serves as the legal counsel for government. This responsibility requires that the government's activities under the Initiative respect the rule of law and fundamental fairness, which is reflected in the ultimate outcome – “to enhance public safety and security while respecting human rights.”[18] Specifically, the Department supports this aim by providing funds for legal aid to economically-disadvantaged accused affected by public safety and anti-terrorism initiatives, and by ensuring that human rights concerns are taken into account in the drafting and implementation of legislation.

Helping Canada meet its international obligations.

When the government considers negotiating and signing international instruments or engaging in other international activities with legal implications, the government departments involved seek legal guidance and often the participation of Justice counsel to ensure that what they are contemplating is consistent with Canadian and international law.

Building anti-terrorism capacity abroad.

Canada is active in supporting other countries in their efforts to develop counter-terrorism capacity. The Department plays a vital role by explaining the Canadian anti-terrorism legal framework, and by helping other countries understand the importance of aligning anti-terrorism legislation with international human rights standards.

Engaging in legislation and policy development.

The Department provides the necessary legal advice and support, including drafting and implementing legislation, to support new national security initiatives and international instruments. The Department will also coordinate the Government's response to recommendations from the ATA review as required. This review required a substantial amount of work for the Department, during the period assessed by the evaluation. Responding to the review's recommendations will likely continue to make sizeable demands on resources.

Prosecuting terrorism-related cases.

Although this is now the responsibility of the PPSC, the FPS handled criminal prosecutions during the period of the evaluation. Terrorist prosecutions and investigations are demanding and they consume substantial resources. Though the number of prosecutions or investigations with a terrorism aspect cannot be predicted, key Justice contacts believe that a demand will always be there and that these cases must be accorded high priority. The Department also assists with terrorism-related investigations and prosecutions, both at home and abroad, through its work on extradition and mutual legal assistance requests, which are key tools in fighting transnational crime in general, and terrorism, specifically.

Responding to legal challenges.

Cases challenging the public safety and anti-terrorism legislation will continue to go through the court system. In response to these cases, the Department must engage in contingency planning, and, in the event that the courts overturn some of the legislation, it will respond by preparing new legislation.