The National Post
By Danny Eisen
Danny Eisen is a Toronto-based consultant. He is the cofounder of C-CAT, the Canadian Coalition Against Terror, and lost a family member in the 9-11 attacks on the U.S.
Here in Canada, the carnage in Mumbai has been overshadowed by the drama in Ottawa. But Canadians should remember that for the victims of the attack, the names Stéphane Dion, Jack Layton and Stephen Harper are of little import. Relatives of the Mumbai victims have been digging holes. They have planted their parents, siblings, children and loved ones in the earth of their respective countries. Meanwhile, a child just celebrated his second birthday in Israel — the bodies of his parents having been freshly laid to rest after their slaughter at Mumbai’s Jewish centre. Wherever they may be, these victims are forever bound together — through Mumbai.
While Canada is hardly influential enough to solve the problem of global terrorism, it is in a position to take stronger action within Canada against those who provide the funding for such horrors.
Every terrorist act that we see reported on television is just the last link of a long series of vast financial transactions that made it possible. Sadly, however, our courts have had limited success in prosecuting the financiers of terrorist attacks. To date, there has been only one criminal conviction for terror financing in Canada, even though authorities have identified hundreds of millions of terror-related dollars flowing through this country in recent years.
But the Canadian Senate is about to reintroduce a piece of ground-breaking legislation that could change that. The bill, an initiative of Canadian terror victims who are members of C-CAT, the Canadian Coalition Against Terror, would make it much easier to hold state and local sponsors of terror responsible for their actions. It would allow Canadian victims of terror and their families to launch civil lawsuits against local and state sponsors of terrorism in Canadian courts. The same terror sponsors that often evade the criminal justice system due to the high standard of evidence required for conviction could be successfully pursued in civil proceedings.
The financiers, enablers and facilitators of terrorism fear transparency and exposure, and would be rendered vulnerable to both through civil suits. This potential for public exposure, combined with successful court judgments that have the ability to bankrupt or financially impair the terrorist infrastructure, can effectively deter future acts of violence.
The legislation, described by Senator David Tkachuk, the Deputy-Chair of the senate committee on national security and defence, as “an ingeniously crafted tool” to deter terrorism, is the subject of a rare consensus in Ottawa. The bill is supported by MPs from across the political spectrum, including Liberals Michael Ignatieff and Irwin Cotler, who have publicly endorsed it, and Bob Rae, who testified in its favour before the Senate last June. The Conservative party, in its election platform, also pledged to introduce a similar measure.
This consensus, during a period of so much acrimony in Ottawa, should not be squandered, and must be quickly acted on by Parliament. If we are serious in our desire to prevent future slaughters, then at minimum we must ensure that the monies that finance organizations that perpetrate such crimes will not have originated from Canada.It is imperative for Canadians to remember that while we sort out our difficulties in Ottawa, and Mumbai begins to fade into the background, terrorists are sharpening their knives in anticipation of another Mumbai-like “success.” This bill, which has so much bipartisan support, could help prevent such carnage. We dare not delay its passage into law regardless of the final outcome of the theatrics in Ottawa.