In the wake of the deadly Boston Marathon bombings and ensuing manhunt for the suspects, Public Safety Minister Vic Toews says he is “satisfied” that Canada’s police forces are prepared for a similar attack, but maintains that stronger anti-terrorism laws are necessary.

“I am satisfied that Canada’s police forces at the local level, at the provincial level are in fact equipped and prepared to respond to these types of crimes,” Toews told Question Period on Sunday, adding that local and provincial authorities must work in concert with national authorities in a coordinated effort.

Toews also stressed that Canadian security authorities can learn from the “horrific” incidents that occurred in Boston.

“I am certain that police forces right across Canada are re-examining their plans in order to determine what we can do better in order to prepare for this type of possibility,” he said.

Toews would not comment if Canada faced similar threats, but said that police authorities are “very mindful” of any threats as they come up, and that both CSIS and the RCMP are continually investigating any “suspicious activities that could lead to problems.”

The Conservatives announced on Friday that it will be pushing for the passage of stronger anti-terrorism measures starting on Monday in the House of Commons.

Some of the measures contained in Bill S-7, called the “Combating Terrorism Act,” include:

  • Making it an offence to leave the country to participate in acts of terror
  • Granting police the powers to pre-emptively arrest someone and hold them for up to three days without charge
  • Imprisonment for up to 12 months if an indvidual refuses to testify before a judge in an investigative hearing

Toews denied that the government was using the fear stemming from the Boston attack to ramp up pressure on the opposition to pass the bill.

“This is something that we’ve been needing to do for quite a while,” he said. “The incident in Boston simply demonstrates the need for this type of legislation.”

The minister said that there have been calls for a proactive approach to preventing people from travelling overseas to become radicalized and militarily trained in terrorist organizations.

“I think there’s a widespread consensus in our society that Canada has an international, and not just a national obligation to prevent these individuals from involving themselves in this type of activity,” he said.

Toews also noted that police and security agencies have said that there have been instances in the past where they would have liked to have had access to these types of legislative tools.

“This is something that has been raised with me,” he said.

NDP foreign affairs critic Paul Dewar said the Conservatives are using the attack in Boston as an opportunity to give the appearance that they’re doing something, when they’ve actually cut the budget for border security.

Dewar said that rather than passing the controversial legislation, it should be restoring funding to border security. He also noted that many of the proposed measures in Bill S-7 were laws from 2001 to 2007 but subsequently expired.

“They didn’t get the job done, they didn’t put legislation forward,” he said.

The NDP has indicated its opposition to the bill.

Liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia said that the Liberals will be supporting Bill S-7 and noted that many of the original measures were first introduced by the Chretien government in 2001.

“We’ve been supporting it all the way through before the incident in Boston ever occurred,” he said. “This particular piece of legislation is not about budgets, it’s about bringing back some legal measures to help in the fight against terrorism.”

The RCMP recently confirmed that Ali Medlej and Xristos Katsiroubas from London, Ont., had died in the deadly January attack on a gas plant in Algeria. It also confirmed that Aaron Yoon, also from London, is currently serving a two-year jail sentence in Mauritania for alleged ties to al Qaeda.

Earlier this month, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service confirmed that Mujahid Enderi, also from London, may also be connected to the gas plant attack in Algeria.