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UN concerned about Canada’s new anti-terror law

TORONTO (AP) — A United Nations human rights body raised concerns Thursday about Canada’s new anti-terror legislation, saying it could run afoul of international human rights standards.

The Anti-Terrorism Act, passed by Parliament in June, makes it easier for intelligence officers, border guards and law enforcement officials to monitor and arrest potential terror suspects in Canada. The law could be used to thwart travel plans, cancel bank transactions and covertly interfere with radical websites. Critics say it will make it easier for security officials to place Canadians under surveillance.

The Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Committee said in a report released Thursday that it is concerned that that the law grants the government sweeping powers but does not contain enough legal safeguards to protect political and civil rights.

Several civil rights organizations raised similar concerns in Geneva earlier this month.

The report said the government should consider rewriting the law to ensure it imposes better safeguards so information-sharing doesn’t lead to human rights abuses and puts in place oversight mechanisms for security and intelligence agencies.

The law also increases the exchange of federal security information, broadens no-fly list powers and creates a new criminal offense of encouraging a terrorist attack. It also makes it easier for the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to potentially restrict the movements of terror suspects and extend the amount of time they can be kept in preventative detention.

A spokesman for Public Safety Minister Stephen Blaney said Canada stands by the legislation.

“These are reasonable measures similar to those used by our close allies to protect their own citizens,” Jeremy Laurin said.

The report raises several issues, including the lack of a national inquiry into murdered and missing aboriginal women and the human rights record of Canadian mining companies operating abroad.

It also details concerns about pay equity, prison conditions and the detention of immigrants.

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