Despite widespread opposition to Harper’s so called anti terror bill, Harper is pushing forward this piece of legislation which aims at criminalizing dissent and although this legislation will affect all it will specifically be used to target native peoples just struggle for self-determination, muslims and immigrants. As such all should take a stand in defence of the rights of all!!!!
Come out and stand up for our civil rights before they’re gone…
if they Pass Bill C-51 the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms will be only a memory.
Where: KITCHENER CITY HALL
When: Saturday April 18th, 2015
Time: 11:00 am
Although I’ve begun reading Michael’s book, and it is very well written (I assumed it would be, since his ipolitics articles always are) but I’m not done yet. The problem, Betsey and I agreed, is that the subject matter is depressing.
While I wasn’t clever enough to bring my copy along to dinner, Betsey was. And her copy was the hit of the evening. Michael broke when he saw she has covered over the photo of Mr. Harper on the dust jacket.
On Saturday, Michael will be speaking at the Registry Theatre in Kitchener (the free event is officially all booked, but if you’re really interested, you can check at the door Saturday in case of cancellation.
This leg of the tour is sponsored by Fair Vote Canada – Waterloo Region Chapter and Wordsworth Books. If you missed him on Saturday, you might be able to catch Michael on Sunday, May 19th, 2015, when he will be speaking in Guelph.
You’ll find more photos available in my “Party of One” Flickr Album
The Harper Government has made 3 cosmetic changes to Bill C-51 while summarily dismissing all the amendments put forth by the other parties in the Parliamentary Committee. If they go ahead and pass it, it will be bad.
Even though some of the parties are acting like it is, Bill C-51 is not a partisan issue. Because the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms aling with our legal system is intended to protect the rights of every Canadian, regardless of party.
Bill C-51 ignores the rule of law and the protections Canadians enjoy under our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is serious enough to worry Canadians across the political spectrum.
You know its a non-partisan problem when legal scholars and ex-judges the legal profession and Rex Murphy and Conrad Black and Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin and Joe Clark and John Turner and Elizabeth May and Thomas Mulcair and the Communist Party and First Nations and a growing number of ordinary citizens are in agreement about how bad Bill C-51 is.
To tell them to Stop Bill C-51, I’ve made up some postcard designs (including a back addressed to Prime Minister Harper) that anyone can:
• get professionally printed (if you are going to print more than a few, getting it done at your photo store or print shop will probably be cheaper than doing it at home) – I plan to get some printed to hand out on Saturday at Kitchener City Hall
• share online
• attach to an email to send to your MP
• attach to an email to send to the PM
You can download high def 300dpi printable copies of the 4″ x 6″ images from the Flickr Album here or click on the image you like and go straight to its Flickr page.
All the designs are CC0 so they’re legal for anyone to use any way they like.
In case you aren’t sure about the importance of Bill C-51, I’ve been aggregaring various resources that may help.
my Flickr Bill C-51
my Tumblr #StopBillC51 posts
Twitter on Bill C-51
If you haven’t, please sign the Leadnow petition REJECT FEAR. STOP STEPHEN HARPER’S “SECRET POLICE” BILL
And there is still time to join the Open Media Stop Bill C-51 Thunderclap which goes until 10am April 13th, 2015.
Law Professors Craig Forcese and Kent Roach (at the University of Ottawa and the University of Toronto respectively) have been raising the alarm in articles like“Bill C-51: the Good, the Bad . . . and the Truly Ugly” which outline many of the very disturbing elements of Bill C-51. They’ve created a website where they have shared their findings about Bill C-51 in detail http://www.antiterrorlaw.ca/
Possibly the single most disturbing element for me is something Mr. Forcese says in one of his information videos:
…the whole thing is covert.
We just have never seen anything like this in Canada before. Personally I would expect judges to consider all this unconstitutional and they could never let CSIS breach the constitution. But you and I may never know because, as I’ve said, this legal question would likely be decided as part of secret proceedings.
In particular, my other informational Whoa!Canada posts include direct links to even more resources:
Even if you never vote, even if you never do another political thing in your life, telling your Member of Parliament or the Prime Minister not to pass Bill C-51 is the most important thing you can do, not just for yourself, but for Canada’s future. Because if they pass this law, we will be living in a dystopian future, well on our way to Nineteen Eighty-Four. And that’s not hyperbole, its fact.
The right of dissent, or, if you prefer, the right to be wrong, is surely fundamental to the existence of a democratic society. That’s the right that went first in every nation that stumbled down the trail toward totalitarianism.”
― Edward R. Murrow
There is rather a lot of dissent happening in Canada these days as more and more Canadians stand up for the things that are important to them, things they believe necessary to democracy. This article began as a comment I made in the Montreal Gazette about the Printemps 2015 anti-austerity dissent currently underway in Quebec.
People often complain about protesters. A protest march or a picket line might impede our ability to get where we are going or even to make a living. Dissent can be inconvenient. Dissent can be annoying. And yet, dissent is crucial to democracy.
An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law”
The most famous and admired examples of dissent inconvenienced a lot of people. Because without dissent, there is no possibility of change. In 1960 the black Americans who occupied the Woolworths lunch counter in Greensboro affected workers trying to make a living by occupying the space and preventing their business from being done.
Mahatma Gandhi chose to challenge the British Government in India so many of his actions were equally illegal. He certainly irritated and annoyed a lot of people, ordinary people who were no doubt prevented from getting where they were going, or maybe going to work; people happy with, or maybe just resigned to the status quo. And, of course, the British occupiers.
The point of dissent is to affect the general population, because the point is to achieve change that the people in power — whether schools, businesses, society or governments have resisted making. If the public has been complacent and allowed the perpetuation of the injustice, dissenters believe it necessary to wake it up.
An unjust law is itself a species of violence. Arrest for its breach is more so.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
Dissent is the physical or intellectual realization of opposition to a prevailing idea or entity that the dissenters strongly disagree with. You might not agree with what they are doing, you might not agree that whatever they are challenging is unjust, but they do. In the 1960’s, the Americans who believed racial segregation was both important and necessary very strongly disagreed with the young people who challenged the idea. Indeed, the very idea of a black President was unthinkable at the time. But the young people persisted, sometimes breaking laws and being arrested, jailed and even killed, but they succeeded in their goal, and so the idea of racial segregation is neither prevalent nor openly practised.
Sometimes dissent stays within the law, but if change is summarily dismissed, if the manifestation of dissent is ignored, sometimes dissent strays into the realm of civil disobedience, particularly when lawful means of protest fail to raise the attention of the public to help make the change the dissenters are looking for.
Around the world suffragettes embarrassed and inconvenienced a lot of people. Sometimes breaking laws, sometimes even risking their lives and liberty. But they persisted, in the face of societal opposition, even from other women. But the prevailing idea that women were the property of men was overturned. And so today Canadian women are legal persons who even have the right to vote in elections.
Window-breaking, when Englishmen do it, is regarded as honest expression of political opinion. Window-breaking, when Englishwomen do it, is treated as a crime.”
― Emmeline Pankhurst
And yet one persons rights end where another’s begin. This is why dissenters who cross the line into illegal behaviour risk legal consequences. Some suffragettes held hunger strikes while incarcerated, because the idea they were trying to change was that important to them. Even today when environmentalists chain themselves to fences, they are aware they may be arrested and/or incarcerated. Even today when protesters gather in protests, they are aware they are risking physical harm.
Benjamin Franklin advised, “It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority” and Martin Luther King counselled his followers that “one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” And yet here in Canada, our right to dissent is threatened by Bill C-51. In spite of cross Canada protest, and cross party objections, the Harper Government has chosen to proceed with Bill C-51, a law which will surely suppress both free speech and dissent.
And dissent is crucial to democracy.
Those who profess to favour freedom and yet depreciate agitation, are people who want crops without ploughing the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning; they want the ocean without the roar of its many waters. The struggle may be a moral one, or it may be a physical one, or it may be both. But it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
― Frederick Douglass
Not local police. Not Provincial Police.
Not even CSIS.
In fact, Canadian Law enforcement “already has many powers to target terrorism and terrorist activities in Canada.”
So why did the federal government put forth Bill C-51?
Oversight vs Auditing
In 2012 Eva Plunkett, the Inspector General of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service retired. The role of the Inspector General was the CSIS Watchdog, and provided the only independent oversight for the CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service).
Rather than replacing her with a new Inspector General, the Harper Government took the unusual step of dismantling the position of Inspector General of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service. This was quietly accomplished with the controversial Omnibus Budget Bill C-38.
Division 15 of Part 4 amends the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act to(a) remove the office of the Inspector General;(b) require the Security Intelligence Review Committee to submit to the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness a certificate on the Director of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s annual report; and(c) increase the information on the Service’s activities to be provided by that Committee to that Minister.”
The Harper Government has taken the position that SIRC (the Security Intelligence Review Committee) provides oversight, but in fact, SIRC does not ensure CSIS does not stray over the line into illegal behaviour (such as actions which would infringe on the civil rights Canadians are guaranteed by The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms).
While SIRC does perform an important function, the reality is that it is a committee of part timers with limited resources that only finds out what CSIS has done after it has done it. If then. While CSIS itself has become a massive bureaucracy, apparently the most lavishly funded of all government agencies; SIRC only has the resources to investigate a small fraction of CSIS actions. Rather than providing sufficient oversight, SIRC doesn’t provide oversight at all, it simply audits and recommends CSIS improvements after the fact.
SIRC is a public forum for people to complain. It’s also a forum to make the public aware of problems,” Plunkett said. “The [Inspector General’s] office was, get in there and identify the problems and point them out to the minister and say, ‘You have to fix this before it becomes an issue for the public.’
“There’s no minister that’s going to be able to know everything about everything. And I can guarantee you that no director (of CSIS) will point out the flaws.”
— Eva Plunkett, retired Inspector General, CBC: CSIS watchdog to be cut in budget
Yes, we know that this government is extremely thin-skinned. But the inspector-general for CSIS isn’t an office that criticizes government. It critiques CSIS behaviour on behalf of the government. Its role is to ensure that the government doesn’t get blindsided by shady behaviour on the part of its intelligence agents.
Or, in the words of Public Safety Minister Vic Toews, spoken in 2010, “The inspector-general performs an important review function that supports me in my role as minister and ensures that CSIS is operating within the law and complying with current policies.”
— Colin Kenny, Globe and Mail: “Dismantling the CSIS inspector-general’s office is dumb”
So why would the government eliminate the Office of the Inspector General?So why did the federal government put forth Bill C-51?
Even before the Office of Inspector General was eliminated, despite limited resources for both the IG’s oversight and SIRC’s review, the IG raised serious questions about CSIS activity.
The inspector general’s key function was to produce an annual certificate stating whether CSIS had strayed outside the law, contravened ministerial direction or exercised its powers unreasonably. In her final certificate, Plunkett found CSIS continued to flout policy and made a serious number of reporting errors. She warned that CSIS’s reputation and effectiveness would suffer if the problems weren’t addressed.”
Following the abolition of the Office of Inspector General, it’s website was taken down, so only IG certificates up to 2010 are posted online by way of the Centre for International Policy Studies archive of CSIS Inspector General Certificate Reports. Plunkett’s final certificate does not appear to be online.
Colin Kenny, the former Chair of the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence argued that instead of eliminating the IG, Canada would be much better served by significantly expanding its scope:
If Mr. Toews had wanted to do something useful, he would have expanded the concept of inspector-general of CSIS to other federal intelligence-gatherers, of which there are roughly a dozen, including the RCMP. Most of these intelligence operations are inadequately scrutinized. Setting up an inspector-general-type of agency to oversee all of them would have been a great move. It would have reassured the public that while this government is serious about law and order, it is also serious about maintaining the legality and integrity of the federal institutions involved in law and order. Instead, it is neutering its only oversight structure that works well.”
— Colin Kenny, Globe and Mail: “Dismantling the CSIS inspector-general’s office is dumb”
Since then, there have been serious questions raised about the appalling lack of oversight over Canadian intelligence services.
Eroding the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms
The breaches of civil rights around the Toronto G20 were my wake up call. An unreasonable quantity of Canadian tax dollars were employed in a widespread supression of Canadian civil rights, resulting in mass arrests, none of which justified such repression. The case of Byron Sonne, a young man whose Charter Rights were breached from the beginning demonstrates the ease with which law can and will be abused.
Even though Mr. Sonne was acquitted, an intelligence agency witness said Mr. Sonne will always be a “person of interest.”
Not because there was probable cause. Not because there was evidence.
The reason Mr. Sonne will spend the remainder of his life under surveillance is solely because, after almost two years of trying, they were unable to break the encryption on one of Mr. Sonne’s impounded computers. Canada’s intelligence apparatus exhibits a frightening sense of entitlement exhibited after having been allowed to act as if mass surveillance on all Canadians all the time is within its mandate.
In contravention of the Charter.
In 2013 Judge Richard Mosley Canadian found that CSIS deliberately breached its “duty of candour” to the courts by withholding information to get warrants with “a deliberate decision to keep the court in the dark about the scope and extent of the foreign collection efforts that would flow from the court’s issuance of a warrant.” [Toronto Star: Spy Agency Withheld Information from Court to Get Warrants, Judge Says]
In spite of this, the Harper Government fast tracked Bill C-51s sister bill, Bill C-44: An Act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other Acts .
It is imperative that the Canadian public trust that CSIS is not acting in a lawless manner. And while improving how SIRC functions, or adding Parliamentary review, could regain or maintain that trust, a more cost-sensitive approach could involve statutory reporting. Regardless, something must be done to ensure that CSIS’ actions remain fully accountable to the public, especially given the new powers the Service may soon enjoy. Doing anything less would irresponsibly expand the state’s surveillance capabilities and threaten to dilute the public’s trust in its intelligence and security service.”
— Christopher Parsons, CSIS’s New Powers Demand New Accountability Mechanisms
The Edward Snowden revelations have shown our intelligence agencies have exhibited serious legal deficiencies. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms was shown to have been breached through mass surveillance of WiFi:
The thought that everything you’re doing is being monitored when there’s no need for it, when there’s no reason to believe you’ve done anything wrong, it completely goes against everything we’ve built our criminal justice system on,” said Borg in a telephone interview with Metro in March. “If you think that we’re just spying on everyone, well maybe it takes away that platform of being able to discuss social issues because you’re scared of what the repercussions might be and I think that’s very worrisome.”
— Charmaine Borg, Opposition Digital Issues Critic Metro: Canadians ‘should be outraged’ by WiFi spy allegations: Borg
Who is Watching The Watchers?
Christopher Parsons discusses the ramifications of these intelligence agency actions in depth in Accountability and Government Surveillance. Before any new laws expanding the powers of the Canadian intelligence apparatus at the expense of Canadian civil rights, Mr. Parsons poses some questions that need to be addressed:
In turning to CSIS, we see that the Service has a highly specific understanding of what laws compel it to disclose information about its practices and collection of Canadians’ personal information. The Service failed to provide a rationale to MP Borg as to why, specifically, questions placed on the Parliamentary Order Paper are insufficient to compel a meaningful response: to whom, specifically, would CSIS provide this information? And under what laws? If the Service is unaccountable to Parliamentarians then who, specifically, does it hold itself genuinely accountable to?”
— Christopher Parsons, Accountability and Government Surveillance.
Michael Geist, the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law wrote,
The deliberate attempt to mislead the key oversight body by omitting relevant information should anger more than just Mosley, who clearly felt that he was duped by CSIS. In response, the government should commission an independent review thttps://www.christopher-parsons.com/accountability-and-government-surveillance/o examine current oversight mechanisms, identify shortcomings on both oversight and the law, and recommend potential reforms to salvage a system that is under increasing public scrutiny and criticism.”
CBC reported New Snowden docs show U.S. spied during G20 in Toronto, the Globe and Mail reported, Ottawa allowed U.S. to spy on G20 summit in Toronto, Snowden leak reveals.
The Intercept reported on the tactics and tools developed within the Five Eyes Framework that can be (are ?) used by our intelligence services in “disruption”:
The apparent involvement of CSE in using the deception tactics suggests it is operating in the same area as a secretive British unit known as JTRIG, a division of the country’s eavesdropping agency, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ. Last year, The Intercept published documents from Snowden showing that the JTRIG unit uses a range of effects operations to manipulate information online, such as by rigging the outcome of online polls, sending out fake messages on Facebook across entire countries, and posting negative information about targets online to damage their reputations.”
— The Intercept: Documents Reveal Canada’s Secret Hacking Tactics
Do Canadians want government agencies to employ such powers against citizens? Particularly without meaningful oversight?
Absent proper oversight or scrutiny, Canadians would ordinarily have been unaware of much our intelligence agencies can do and have done. Which is why we owe a great debt to Edward Snowden.
The worrisome bit is that the intelligence breaches that have become public are very probably only the tip of the iceberg.
There is more than enough credible information floating around the internet to indicate the Charter has been breached over and over again by CSIS/CSEC/RCMP/FiveEyes. Even before they pass Bill C-51 I am apalled at what the Harper Government has allowed to happen on its watch.
When we talk about this in the context of Canada and why it’s relevant to your particular conversations today, we’ve got the C-51 bill being bandied about. I’m not going to weigh in on whether this is a good bill or a bad bill, because that’s a conversation for Canadians to have. But something that we can see when we look at all of the conversations happening around the world today is that Canadian intelligence has one of the weakest oversight frameworks out of any western intelligence agency in the world. And when they’re trying to expand their powers, it’s pretty amazing that we have the Canadian government trying to block the testimony of former prime ministers who’ve had access to classified information, who understand the value of these programs, and who are warning the public broadly and saying this is something we really need to talk about, this is something we really need to debate, this is something we really need to be careful about.”
— Edward Snowden, The Tyee: Edward Snowden’s Warning to Canada
While Mr. Snowden doesn’t presume to decide whether the proposed Bill C-51 is good or bad law for Canada, as a Canadian I feel qualified to say that Bill C-51 is indeed a bad law. As one of the Canadians obliged to live in a regime of legally approved mass surveillance even more extensive than what George Orwell envisioned in Nineteen Eight-Four, I do presume to say Bill C-51 is wrong.
I am not a legal scholar, I’m just an ordinary Canadian.
We are fortunate to live in the Internet age and have access to so much important information. Information that can be found in all the links I have shared here. Information like the analysis offered by legal scholars Craig Forcese and Kent Roach.
As a writer, the threats to free speech that comes with mass surveillance chills me to the bone.
As a citizen, the suppression of dissent Bill C-51 allows will emulate secret police activities practised by repressive regimes throughout history.
As a parent, the idea of leaving future generations a Canada so much worse than the one in which I was born is simply unacceptable.
What Canada really needs is law that implements reasonable oversight of CSIS, CSEC, and the RCMP. A law that ensures Canadians continue to enjoy the protection of the Canadian Charter. Oversight to protect Canadians from the kind of Charter breaches and prosecutorial overreach Mr. Sonne was subjected to. The fundamental flaws in C-51 need more than the cosmetic amendments the Harper Government says it will be putting forward.
Bill C-51 needs to be scrapped.
The preservation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is imperative.
Rick Mercer elaborated on Pulitzer Prize winning Journalist Glenn Greenwald’s suggestion that Canadians are in more danger of being harmed by bathroom accidents than by terrorists. Leadnow advised Canadians to #RejectFear and tell the Harper Government to stop Bill C-51 because in Canada, we’re way more likely to be killed by a moose than by a terror plot.
Privacy is essential to civil rights. That’s why it is protected bt the Charter. And the reason personal privacy is such an important human right is because privacy is necessary for our protection. The greatest danger posed to citizens is posed by government, because government has access to the resources of the entire country. And without civil rights, we have no defence against government.
So why did the federal government put forth Bill C-51?
From the information that has come out, I suspect many of the worst excesses in Bill C-51 that we qare warned against are already the norm in our intelligence agencies. Such practices are inevitable because there really isn’t anyone watching the watchers. Bill C-51 seeks to make these excesses legal, which will strip us all of any legal recourse or self defence. And that just isn’t right.
Not in a democracy.
Not in a free country.
Not in Canada.
Photos by Laurel L. Russwurm
“Privacy is Not A Crime” is a remix of a protest sign seen at the Kitchener-Waterloo Day of Action Against bill C-51
The rising tide of Canadian outrage about Bill C-51 has prompted the Harper Government to bend . . . a little.
The CBC reports, Anti-terror Bill C-51 to be changed as Tories respond to criticism
There is so much wrong in very fabric of Bill C-51 that making some cosmetic changes will not touch the worst excesses.
Bill C-51 still needs to be stopped because there is no place for mass surveillance in a democracy.
Or preventative detentions.
The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is too important to cast aside.
Mr. Harris will be speaking to what will certainly be a sold out crowd at the Registry Theatre in Kitchener. There weren’t many tickets left when I took a peek at the Eventbright site yesterday, so if you want to go, you’d best book yours before they are all gone. Tickets are free but required to keep attendance within the seating limitation of the venue.
I have not yet read the book, but it came highly recommended by the panel at the Guelph Robocalls Town Hall. I’ll be picking up my copy from one of the event sponsors, Wordsworth Books next time I’m uptown.
Michael Harris Party of One
Fair Vote Canada and WordsWorth Books
Saturday, 18 April 2015
1:00 PM to 2:30 PM (EDT)