NDP blasts PM for singling out threat of 'Islamicism'
Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during an announcement at Stanton Hospital regarding a heath care funding for the north in Yellowknife, Northwest Territories on Thursday, August 25, 2011. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick)
Published Wednesday, September 7, 2011 6:24PM EDT
MONTREAL - The Conservative government's approach to national security has divided the country and done little to make it safer, the NDP's interim leader said Wednesday.
Nycole Turmel accused Prime Minister Stephen Harper of creating a climate of fear by singling out "Islamicism" as the country's biggest security threat.
Harper told the CBC on Tuesday that Islamic extremism remains the main preoccupation of Canada's intelligence services 10 years after the Sept. 11 attacks.
But in putting the focus solely on Islam, Harper is creating an environment that actually fosters further insecurity, Turmel said.
"Mr. Harper always has an approach that is divisive and we don't agree with that," she told reporters in Montreal.
"Create an environment where people are talking to each other, where they are helping each other, instead of an environment where you create things that will go against the security of the people."
Harper's comments also drew a reaction from Turmel's Liberal counterpart, Bob Rae, who warned against over-identifying Islam with terrorism.
"The enemy is not Islam, it's extremism, violence, and hatred," Rae said in a posting on Twitter. "It's the way religious beliefs are twisted and perverted."
During the CBC interview, Harper raised the possibility of re-introducing two clauses of the Antiterrorism Act that expired in 2007.
One of the clauses would allow judges to compel secret testimony from witnesses.
The other would give police powers of preventive arrest, allowing them to arrest and hold terror suspects for up to three days without a warrant.
Turmel criticized the clauses as unnecessary, and pointed to former CSIS director Reid Morden's own reservations about their use.
When the Tories tried to enact the lapsed anti-terror provisions last year, Morden argued that police "don't need more powers."
Pushing the provisions through the House now, Turmel said, "won't be good for anybody."
"We have enough laws currently to protect us," she said.
Turmel added in seeking the implementation of unneeded anti-terror policies, the Tories are only encouraging extremism.
"You create a reaction rather than being more inclusive," she said.
Turmel's comments came as a new report suggested Canada's spending on security and defence escalated dramatically in the last decade.
The economic study by the Rideau Institute says the country spent $92 billion over and above what it would have done, if budgets had remained in line with 1990s expenditure levels.
The figure includes higher defence costs, the war in Afghanistan, and increased spending on police and public safety programs.
Turmel wouldn't comment on whether she felt it was money well spent, saying she would wait to read the report first. But she did say Canada has reached the limit of its security spending.
"It's obvious that we have to look after the country's security and it's obvious that we have to live in a secure environment," she said.
"(But) it is certain that we can't go any further in the measures taken to secure the country."