Bill C-51 in Bullet Points

 

Cardinal Richilieu on PrivacyMy friend Paul suggested:

Someone needs to publish or post a good summary for the layman, with perhaps bullet points of what Bill C-51 entails. So many websites I have gone to are filled with opinion that just rambles on ad nauseam. I am more confused than ever!

Anyone who reads this blog knows how hard this assignment will be for someone as inclined to over-explain as I.  But I’ve tried.

BILL C-51 in Bullet Points


  • Bill C-51 is overly broad, so it can be made to mean anything the authorities want it to mean.
    [Instead saying someone who bombs a government building commits a terrorist act punishable by 50 years in jail, it might say someone who commits a terrorist act can be punished by 50 years in jail. Defining endangering Canada’s economic stability is terrorism, it could be used to identify as terrorists: factory workers picketing their place of employment because their employer’s lack of safety standards endangers their lives might be sent to jail for terrorism.]
  • Bill C-51 dispenses with the need to get evidence before targeting suspects.
    [Instead of requiring evidence showing “probable cause,” law enforcement agents will be able to proceed against citizens based solely on suspicions.*]
  • Bill C-51 introduces the “constitutional breach warrant” granting permission to breach civil rights in advance.

    But now, for the first time, judges are being asked to bless in advance a violation of any or all our Charter rights, in a secret hearing, not subject to appeal, and with only the government side represented. What the government proposes now is a “constitutional breach warrant”. It is a radical, idea that contorts basic constitutional understandings and the role of the courts. It has correctly been compared to a stealth use of the notwithstanding clause, in which judges and not Parliament are being asked to do the dirty work of abrogating rights.”
    BILL C-51: ROACH AND FORCESE SUBMISSIONS TO THE SENATE STANDING COMMITTEE

  • Bill C-51 dispenses with citizen privacy by allowing indiscriminate unsupervised information sharing.
    [Instead of requiring the various law enforcement agencies to share information cooperatively (which would be good), it will allow the sharing of information stored in 17 government departments  “to any person, for any purpose”with no review for 14 of the 17 recipient departments, and no judicial review at all.  The two scariest departments that would be required to give out our personal data so recklessly?  Health and Canadian Revenue Agency.  Yay.]
  • Bill C-51 will put all Canadian citizens at risk of secret trials.
    [At present, Canada’s “Security Certificate” regime has been used only against immigrants who have not yet become citizens. Bill C-51 would extend this to all citizens through secret procedures that fly in the face of human rights. You can see what this will be like in the documentary film The secret Trial 5. The trailer on the site will give you a good idea, but it is well worth downloading the very well done important documentary.]
  • Bill C-51 will render our civil rights protections meaningless by allowing CSIS to breach law or the Charter.
    Bill C-51: What Did We Learn About The Government’s Intentions From The Clause-By-Clause goes into this in much more detail.
  • Bill C-51 expands the government’s ability to spy on Canadians without any oversight.
    [The office of the Inspector General used to provide oversight (oversight=supervision) but it was quietly dissolved as part of the Bill C-38 omnibudget leadnow dubbed the “Black Mark Budget” in 2011. The Harper Government maintains the underfunded understaffed part-timers of SIRC provide oversight, but it can’t.  SIRC provides limited review of only selected CSIS operations after the fact.
    ]
  • Bill C-51 makes the no-fly list (already an incursion in the Charter’s mobility rights) even worse.
  • Bill C-51’s vagueness threatens free speech because it allows arbitrary censorship at the whim of government.

*The rule of law is the legal principle that law should govern a nation, as opposed to being governed by arbitrary decisions of individual government officials.
Rule of Law, Wikipedia

A big part of the problem is that there is no time.  But when the entire legal profession, information technology folks,  the Government’s own Privacy Commissioner (and every other Canadian Privacy Commissioner past and present), civil rights organizations at home and abroad, along side a vast array of ordinary people from all walks of life and across the breadth of the Canadian political spectrum opposes a law, it should not pass.

The Canadian Senate will vote on Bill C-51 this week, and the Senators might yet prevent it from passing. Please contact as many Senators as you can to tell them not to undermine our civil rights.

Here’s a tool that makes contacting Senators easy:
https://stopc51.ca/

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leavesP.S.  The only way a law like Bill C-51 could have gotten this far is because our unfair outdated electoral system puts absolute power into the hands of any majority government.  Bill C-51 would not have a hope if we had Proportional Representation.  With the exception of the Conservative and Liberal Parties, every one else wants to adopt meaningful electoral reform.   So no matter what, and no matter who for, every Canadian needs to vote in the fall election. 

More Information

WWhat Is A Disruption Warrant?Professors Kent Roach and Craig Forcese are the acknowledged experts on Bill C-51. As well as testifying before both the House of Commons and Senate Committees on Bill C-51 they have studied it as exhaustively as possible and published their findings as they go in the website Canada’s Proposed Antiterrorism Act: An Assessment

Among the vast amount of material already out there, I have covered Bill C-51 as extensively as possible here in Whoa!Canada, (just read back… you might like Our Kids Deserve to Have Civil Rights, but there are a lot more, just read on) and I’ve have shared copious links and articles like “What is a Disruption Warrant” on Visual Laurel.

My Bill C-51 YouTube playlist features important snippets of things I’ve learned from ordinary people.
I’ve also assembled a playlist of other people’s Bill C-51 videos on YouTube

Privacy is an incredibly important human right, necessary for the “security of the person.” Former Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart published a list of excellent movies that dealt with the Privacy issues we increasingly face. These films demonstrate the importance of privacy matters, and why Bill C-51 must not pass.


The Lives of Others

Red Road

The Conversation

Minority Report

Gattaca

Kitchener Stop Bill C-51 March TODAY

Keep Canada free - STOP Bill C-51

Today there will be a Stop Bill C-51 march in Kitchener [here’s a map]

Concerned citizens will leave Montgomery Park at 5:00pm and march to Victoria Park.

The march will be followed by discussion and a barbeque in Victoria Park.

march route

On Saturday there will be a STOP BILL C-51 CONVERGENCE at Parliament Hill, fittingly at the Human Rights Monument, where concerned citizens will protest this dreadful proposed legislation (currently before the Senate) that will render Canadian civil rights protections meaningless.  Protests will again be held in a Canada Wide DAY OF ACTION.  There are buses being arranged to take concerned citizens from Toronto to Ottawa.

Canadian civil rights are supposed to be protected by the Canadian Bill of Rights introduced by Conservative Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, part of the Canadian Constitution repatriated by Liberal Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.  These rights we have are based on the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

This is NOT a partisan issue, this is a Canadian issue: we ALL need civil rights.

It is legally unconstitutional to breach these rights, and yet Mr. Harper plans to do it anyway (and has been so far been shamefully supported by the Liberal Party.)   Kind of tells you what the Harper Government thinks of our Constitution.

The Senators are indeed partisan which has been proven time and again as Prime Ministers from Brian Mulroney to Jean Chrétien to Stephen Harper have proven by stacking the Senate again and again and again as the Senate provides its rubber stamp to increasingly bad legislation.

Stripping Canadians of civil and human rights protections will not make us safe; that is the Big Lie.

Civil rights protect us.

If the Senate follows along like sheep on an issue of this magnitude, an issue that strikes at the heart of every Canadian, it would resoundingly prove that there is no hope for this body to ever provide Canadians with sober second thought, and I will finally come to agree with Mr. Mulcair’s intention to remove it from the Canadian political landscape when his NDP forms government this fall.

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Here’s hoping the House of Commons will reject Bill C-51

Canadian flag

Bill C-51 will deepen and widen Canada’s democratic deficit into an abyss. Is it possible to stop it?

postcard design #2 - Preserve the canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Stop Bill C-51From the beginning, Green Party leader Elizabeth May has led the opposition against Bill C-51. Happily she has been joined by the NDP and every other party in voicing serious concerns, although the Liberal Party has fewer concerns than any other, and say they will actually vote for it. (No, I don’t get it, either.)

From the very beginning, the Harper Government made it clear it would fast track Bill C-51.

Bill C-51 was even presented to the Senate before it even cleared the House of Commons, something that is certainly unusual, and possibly even unprecedented. Even there, an MI5 intelligence expert (one of Canada’s “Five Eyes” intelligence ally) condemned Bill C-51 roundly before at the Senate hearings. In the past, Canadians have seen the Senate’s reluctance to provide sober second thought, so we really can’t expect anything more than it’s usual rubber stamp of Harper Government Policy.

The Parliamentary Committee meant to study Bill C-51 was severely limited in the number of submissions the Government would allow. An NDP filibuster made it possible to slightly expand the scope of the presentations, but it still fell very short of the mark. Nevertheless, most of the experts on the array of issues covered by this omnibus bill were not allowed to even speak to the committee.

Rather than silencing opposition, this policy had the opposite affect: the experts made an effort to wade through and dissect this law in a way seldom seen any more. Since the committee couldn’t hear their opposition on this incredibly important issue, the experts have presented their findings to us, the Canadian public.

The Parliament Buildings drawn by Roger Duhamel, from the Canadian Bill of Rights (public domain)

Legal scholars Craig Forcese (University of Ottawa) and Kent Roach (University of Toronto) began by presenting their findings online, as they found them. Former Prime Ministers, Supreme Court Justices and finally the entire Canadian legal community rose up against this dreadful draft legislation. Canadian Privacy Commissioners — past and present — spoke strongly against Bill C-51. Civil Liberty groups, Conrad Black, Rex Murphy, the Communist Party of Canada and even a group of business owners have all come out against Bill C-51 in the strongest terms.

In the beginning, ordinary Canadians were told this law would make us safe from terrorism, when in fact this claim has failed to rise above the rhetoric. Instead of being supported with evidence, the expert evidence demonstrating that stripping Canadians of Charter protections will in fact make us less safe. As a result, ordinary Canadians held rallies and Days of Action across Canada to raise awareness. When Canadians learn the import of Bill C-51, we oppose it. Now that ordinary people have the facts, support for the bill has plummeted and the vast majority of Canadians are in opposition to this bill.

Because Bill C-51 is not a partisan issue, it’s a Canadian issue. This law would be un-Canadian.
Stop Bill C-51

And yet none of this seems to have dampened the Harper Government’s determination to fast-track the Bill. The deepest flaw in our electoral system is that a party with 39% of the vote can gain 100% of the power. When a party has 100% of the power, it can pass any law it likes. (This is why we need Proportional Representation.)

Rather than scrapping the bill outright, the Harper Government’s domination of the parliamentary committee instead flexed it’s dictatorial muscles by defeating every amendment presented by every other Canadian political party with representation in Parliament. The only amendments to the law have been the three 3 cosmetic changes in an unconvincing effort to demonstrate the Government had in fact noticed public opinion opposes the bill.

At the Report Stage, Ms. May delivered an excellent speech on Bill C-51 in Parliament. Everything she said is born out by experts.

And yet The Harper Government continues to spread misinformation about this bill through its response made by the West Vancouver – Sunshine Coast – Sea to Sky Country MP. John Weston claimed Bill C-51 made “modest changes” which would “bring our government up to the level of other western democracies” without providing a scrap of substantiation. Then he attempted to discredit Ms. May with an ad hominem attack, then he concluded with a false claim that Bill C-51 would provide “judicial overview.”

This was Ms. May’s response.

Mr. Speaker, let’s be clear, this bill does not contain a single element of judicial oversight.

It does allow a CSIS agent to go to a judge and obtain a warrant–  but does that judge have the overview and the oversight to continue to monitor the way that warrant is used?

And no other modern democracy — NONE — anywhere — would allow a judge in a secret hearing to give a warrant to violate the constitution.

It is unheard of in the democratic world.

It’s unheard of, period

and this parliament should not stand for it.

Elizabeth May, Speech on Bill C-51

Although I am not a lawyer, my reading of the Charter suggests this is all that will remain of our rights and freedoms if Bill C-51 becomes law.

Canadian Charter After They pass Bill C-51

For this reason, I sincerely hope that Bill C-51 is withdrawn by the Harper Government. To this end, I sincerely hope Canadians will continue to call or write or email our MPs (you can print your own post card here) — even Conservative MPs — or sign the petition or petitions of your choice, and encourage others to do so as well. If we keep silent, our Charter will become a ghost of itself, our civil rights a sham.

For this reason I lend my own voice to Ms. May’s plea that her colleagues in the House of Commons will reject this bad law.

I’m only an ordinary citizen, maybe I’ve gotten it wrong.  But the experts have out the evidence out there.  Because the experts know why Bill C-51 must be scrapped.  Please watch the video (it’s only ten minutes) and hear for yourself.


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Image Credits:

My flag photo is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License;

My post card designs are CC0 (in the public domain)

Roger Duhamel‘s rendering of the Canadian Parliament Buildings is Public Domain.  The image is from the Canadian Bill of Rights, which was originally under Crown Copyright, which expires 50 years after publication.

My graphic “the Canadian Charter after they Pass Bill C-51” was used under the fair dealing exemption to Canadian copyright law, and I’ve dedicated my resultant work to the Public Domain.

Dissent and Democracy

March 21st against austerity
Printemps 2015: March 21st against austerity, ‘maple spring’ in Montreal, Quebec.

 

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.

Greensborough Lunch Counter at the Smithsonian - CC BY-SA Tim Evanson
Greensborough Lunch Counter at the Smithsonian

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”

Martin Luther King Jr.

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.

Mahatma Gandhi on the salt March, 1930
Mahatma Gandhi on the salt March, 1930

 

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.

British SuffragetteNeither the state nor society is under any obligation to make the change the dissenters seek, so changing the world can be messy.

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.

Kitchener-Waterloo Day of Action against Bill C-51, March 14, 2015
Kitchener-Waterloo Day of Action against Bill C-51, March 14, 2015

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.

Crowd to hear Suffragettes, Oct. 28, 1908
Crowd to hear Suffragettes, Oct. 28, 1908

 

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

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Image Credits

March 21st against austerity by MOD is released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)

Greensborough Lunch Counter at the Smithsonian by Tim Evanson, released under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Share-alike (CC BY-SA 2.0) License

The Public Domain Image  Ghandi on the salt March was found at Wikimedia Commons.

The Public Domain Image British Suffragette photo by Ch. Chusseau-Flaviens was found at Wikimedia Commons.

The Public Domain Image Crowd to hear Suffragettes, Oct. 28, 1908 photographed by George Grantham Bain was found at Wikimedia Commons.

Bill C-51 Needs to be Scrapped, Not Amended

Privacy Is Not A Crime - Protest Sign Remix No Canadian Police Force asked for the expanded powers in Bill C-51.

Not local police.  Not Provincial Police.

Not RCMP.

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.”

— Omnibus Budget Bill C-38.

Black Mark Budget Demonstration, Waterloo, Ontario

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

Legality

 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.”

— CBC: CSIS watchdog to be cut in budget

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”

The word "Court" intertwined in the fascia above the side entrance to Toronto's Old City Hall from the day

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.

Legal Candour

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

WiFi Surveillance

"WIFI Internet Access Here" sign at The Working CentreThe 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.”

— CSIS should be subject of independent investigation: Geist

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 aspywarepparent 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

Ed Snowden and Laurel RusswurmWhile 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 is a DISRUPTION WARRANT ? In a secret hearing a judge will grant CSIS blanket permission to violate the Charter Rights of targetted Canadians.   The “Disruption” can mean (but is not limited to) • undercover infiltration of a group • psychological manipulation of group members • planting evidence • destroying evidence • falsification of information online to • deliberately destroy the reputations of targeted Canadian citizens.   The Government will need no evidence of criminal activity, merely the argument a Canadian Citizen MAY pose a danger. The judge won’t even know what form the “disruption” will take. Canadians will not know they have been targeted so they will have no defense or appeal. .   Bill C-51 will allow CSIS agents to engage in these activities with less oversight than than any other “Five Eyes” nation.   Can you trust a government that does such things?   Bill C-51 will make a mockery of our “free country.”

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.

a horizontal border of red graphic maple leaves

Image Credit
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 Onion Router #Privacy Matters

anonymity

Privacy is an important part of personal protection.  That’s why it’s protected in the UDHR and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.  Without the ability to speak anonymously, free speech isn’t actually possible.

Even if corporations and governments are not going to respect our privacy, there are tools we can use to protect ourselves when we use the Internet.    And if they actually pass Bill C-51 we will certainly need to use tools like TOR even more than we do now.

One of the best tools out there is the excellent TOR, not to be confused with the science fiction publishing imprint, the TOR I’m talking about is “The Onion Router.”  Here’s a video they’ve recently released that does a nice job of explaining how it works and why we should use it.  I am pleased to present it in both of Canada’s official languages:

 

 

Stop Bill C-51 the Musical

In spite of the fact the Harper Government fast tracked Bill C-51, the Parliamentary Committee won’t re-convene until next week.  When you consider the Harper Government’s vow to have this legislation rushed through so it can be passed by the end of the month, this is a dramatic demonstration of how little scrutiny the Harper Government is willing to accord Bill C-51.

The same can’t be said for the rest of us, because Bill C-51 is actually getting a great deal of scrutiny outside the Parliament Buildings.

There are a lot of terrible things in this draft legislation, but as a writer I am especially concerned about it’s assault on Free Speech.   Ordinarily I only blog about Canadian Politics sporadically, but this week I hope to post daily.   Previous posts include: David Weber warns Bill C-51 will lead to a Police State #RejectTerror #StopBillC51 the film I’ll be seeing tonight, The Secret Trial 5 ~ Screening Tour, and yesterday’s Learned at the KW Stop C-51 Day of Action


Okay, well, I have to admit  there isn’t really a musical… not yet, anyway.   Maybe that will be James Gordon’s next project?

But in the mean time, concerned Canadians across this land have begun to engage in the making of Stop Bill C-51 protest songs.

Here are a couple of my favorites:

The Raging Grannies

SolidariGLEE


This one is not a musical.

I hope to put together a series of small films made from the video snippets I recorded at the KW Stop Bill C51 Day of Action.  Here is the first:

Security Certificates: KW Stop Bill C51 Day of Action

Please share!