Santa Falls Foul of Anti-Terrorism Laws
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian police, taking advantage of sweeping new anti-terrorism legislation, arrested Santa Claus on the grounds that he had a beard, was behaving suspiciously and, in all likelihood, belonged to a underground cell. Or so demonstrators would have you believe.
The ``arrest'' Monday was stage-managed by local pro-democracy activists who say that the legislation -- which the Senate, or upper house of Parliament, was due to start debating later Monday -- will destroy many civil liberties.
The law, the brainchild of Justice Minister Anne McLellan, and passed already by the House of Commons, will ban fund-raising by terrorist groups, widen wiretapping authority and allow police to make preventive arrests of people they think would engage in terrorism.
As thick snow fell across Parliament Hill in Ottawa, a small crowd of demonstrators watched an actor dressed as a policeman handcuff a protesting Santa and take him away.
``We're sorry to say that Santa has been put on the list of terrorists and he is being arrested today because of concerns by Anne McLellan that he might be up to no good,'' said local activist Betty-Anne Daviss.
As Santa was hauled off to meet his fate, fellow demonstrator Ken Johnson said it was clear the suspect was part of a larger organization.
``They're clearly in cahoots across the country, all these people doing very similar and weird things, spending time in shopping malls and waving in parades. I'm sure those hand signals are indicating something to other members of the cell,'' he said.
McLellan rushed out the legislation to meet the needs of various government departments in the wake of the Sept. 11 strikes on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon (news - web sites).
After concerted protests, the government did soften the legislation by introducing sunset clauses under which two provisions -- allowing for preventive arrests and judicial investigative hearings -- would expire after five years.