Bill offers witness protection to defence, security sources
Published Tuesday, December 11, 2012 6:40AM EST
Last Updated Tuesday, December 11, 2012 12:59PM EST
Public Safety Minister Vic Toews tabled new legislation Tuesday to expand the federal witness protection program to include sources working with Canada’s defence, public safety and spy agencies.
The new legislation, called the Safer Witnesses Act, also makes it easier for witnesses in provincial protection programs to obtain new federal identity documents. Toews told reporters Tuesday that as it stands, federal documents can be difficult to obtain for witnesses in provincial programs.
The bill also broadens the scope of information that cannot be disclosed to include individuals who are ushering witnesses through the program, in order to protect their safety.
It also extends the time in which witnesses can receive emergency protection.
“Many of these changes address concerns raised by provincial and territorial governments,” Toews told reporters at a Parliament Hill news conference. “They respond to the needs of law enforcement and other stakeholders involved in the criminal justice system.”
The federal witness protection program is run by the RCMP and offers either short-term protection for witnesses who are testifying or co-operating in a case, or permanent relocation with a new identity.
Either provincial officials or police refer witnesses to the federal program.
The new legislation follows a review conducted after a protected witness committed murder while enrolled in the program. Provincial and territorial officials were also consultedfor the new legislation.
With files from The Canadian Press