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.

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Fair Elections Act

“In Canada, our problem isn't people voting more than once, it's people voting less than once.”

Elections Canada is the independent, non-partisan agency responsible for conducting federal elections and referendums. Once appointed by the House of Commons, the Chief Electoral Officer reports directly to Parliament and serves until retirement at age 65 or until he or she resigns.  She can only be removed from the position by the Governor General of Canada for cause in a process requiring a joint motion and majority vote in both the House of Commons and the Senate.

Elections Canada is charged with running fair elections. It provides the public with information about our election system, ensures eligible voters are registered and can vote, registers political parties, monitors election spending and helping adjust federal riding boundaries, and enforces election legislation.

Well, that’s what it did until now.

Yesterday, February 4th, 2014, was a bad day for Canada, when the Harper Government unveiled Bill C-23, the so-called “Fair Elections Act.”

Appointed in 2007, our current Chief Electoral Officer Marc Mayrand was unanimously approved by the House of Commons in 2007.  [post script: every single Member of Parliament in every party, including Mr. Harper during the last Harper Government minority, supported the choice of Mark Mayrand. ] Throughout Mayrand’s term of office, there have been what seems an never ending list of electoral scandals, ranging from creative financing all the way up to the Robocalls.  Here are a few of the highlights:

Conservative Minister for Democratic Reform Pierre Poilievre was quoted as saying, “The referee should not be wearing a team jersey,” a clear indication the Harper Government feels Elections Canada has been unfairly targeting Conservatives.

And while Prime Minister Harper can’t remove Marc Mayrand from his job, it seems he can remove half of Elections Canada. It certainly looks like revenge to me.  My own opinion is that Elections Canada’s has been treating the Harper Government with kid gloves.

“The reason I doubt anything the Conservatives say on electoral matters is they have a proven track record of consistently cheating in elections,” NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said outside the Commons

“Huffington Post, Fair Elections Act: Changes Will Register Robocalls, Raise Spending Caps by Bruce Cheadle.

This law aims to crack down on voter fraud by making it harder for Canadians to vote. There are many good reasons for citizens eligible to vote to lack sufficient credentials. Not everyone has photo ID.  Wallets are stolen, people who have just moved often lack proof of residence. In the past, such situations could be overcome by having a voter with the correct credentials vouch for you. It is estimated that this change will prevent thousands of Canadians from voting. This change will hit the young and the homeless hardest.

There have been suggestions that this Law will create an independent Electoral Commissioner, but in reality, the Independent Commissioner exists already; they are simply moving him.  [post script: The current system protects the Election Commissioner and the process of policing the Elections Act from partisan interference.  Placing the Commissioner of Elections under the authority of the Public Prosecutor, who is himself a political party appointee, would appear to remove such protection.  If I am correct, this law will effectively remove any accountability in Canadian electoral law.]

The idea is supposed to be to hold those responsible for electoral fraud accountable.  But how are they planning to find these frauds? Well, it seems political parties engaging in Robocalls will be required to register and submit their scripts to the CRTC. This is voluntary registration is supposed to protect citizens from being deliberately disenfranchised by fraudulent robocalls that send them to non-existent polling stations.

If someone wants to commit robocall fraud, are they really going to turn themselves in to the CRTC ahead of time?   I think not.

The Green Party’s Democratic Reform Critic, Bruce Hyer, said,

If the Conservatives were serious about electoral reform, we would be talking about ending First Past the Post and introducing Proportional Representation, reforming our unelected and unaccountable Senate, and ending the practice of having party leaders sign off on candidates’ nomination forms.  Unlike Michael Chong’s important Reform Act, this is just rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.


Image Credit
Elizabeth May by Mike Gifford released under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license
Plain Text: “In Canada, our problem isn’t people voting more than once, it’s people voting less than once.” ` Elizabeth May

Proportional Representation Petitions

MP Stephen WoodworthAnita Payne pointed out that Stephen Woodworth was not the first Conservative MP to present the Fair Vote Petition to Parliament.

On November 18th, 2013 Conservative MP Scott Reid presented a Fair Vote Proportional Representation Petition from his own Ontario riding of Lanark-Frontenac-Lennox & Addington. It would certainly have been easy to miss as he merely described it as “identical to the petition just presented a moment ago by my colleague from St. Paul’s.”  I’ve taken the liberty of reproducing the Hansard record of Liberal Member of Parliament Carolyn Bennett’s Petition Presentation (referenced by Mr. Reid) here:

Hon. Carolyn Bennett
The Honorable Carolyn Bennett

Mr. Speaker, I wish to present a petition on fair electoral representation. The petition is to ensure that Canadians have a fair electoral system. The petitioners are saying that it is completely unfair when the number of MPs that party supporters elect does not reflect the number of voters who cast ballots for that party.

The petitioners pointed out to me in a number of town hall meetings at Christie Gardens that it seems exceptionally unfair that many more people voted against the governing party, which is ruling with a majority.

As fair voting systems better reflect the will of voters and let them vote for the candidate and party they prefer and give each community fair and accountable representation, the petitioners are calling upon the House of Commons to immediately undertake public consultations across Canada to amend the Canada Elections Act to ensure that voters can cast an equal and effective vote to be fairly represented in Parliament.

I am particularly honoured to present this particular petition in that it is signed by one of the real heroes of citizen engagement, my dear friend Ursula Franklin.

— The Honorable Carolyn Bennett, presenting the Fair Vote Petition from St. Paul’s

I welcome any further information about other Proportional Representation petitions presented to parliament.

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Shameful

There was a tragic attack at today’s Boston Marathon. In Parliament, NDP MP Nathan Cullen relates:
A Canadian flag flies at half mast against a blue sky

I just tabled and tried to pass a motion in the House of Commons comdemning the attacks in Boston. Unfortunately, it didn’t pass.

Here’s the text of my motion: “That this House condemn the attacks perpetrated during the 2013 Boston Marathon and express its deepest sympathies to the victims of this senseless violence and their families.”


Je viens de soumettre une motion dans la Chambre des Communes qui condamne les attaques en Boston et exprime les condoléances des canadiens. Malheureusement, elle a été rejetée.

Voici la texte de mon motion : « Que cette Chambre condamne les attaques perpétrées durant le Marathon 2013 de Boston et exprime sa profonde sympathie envers les victimes de cette violence insensée ainsi que leur famille. »

— Nathan Cullen, April 15, 2013

Because the Conservative Party holds a majority of seats in the House of Commons, it has absolute control of what motions or legislation can be passed.

The Harper Government chose not to pass this motion.

Why?

Why wouldn’t the Harper Government “condemn the attacks perpetrated during the 2013 Boston Marathon?”

How could the Harper Government refuse to “express its deepest sympathies to the victims of this senseless violence and their families?”

Does the Harper government approve of these attacks? 

Expressing concern for our friends, allies, and neighbors in time of tragedy is a human thing to do. It apalls me that the Harper Conservatives would be so petty as to block this merely human motion, a purely non-partisan statement of compassion and support, simply because it was tabled by a member of the Official Opposition.

Such shameful partisan posturing has no place in the House of Commons.

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Bad News: Canada Passed Bill C-10

LegisInfo: House Government Bill 41st Parliament, 1st Session June 2, 2011 – Present Text of the Bill Latest Publication: As passed by the House of Commons: 

C-10 An Act to enact the Justice for Victims of Terrorism Act and to amend the State Immunity Act, the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and other Acts

You can read Bill C10 here.

I had hoped the Senate would fulfil its legislative function and provide oversight by preventing the passage of this law that hasn’t even been properly costed out, let alone justified.

The Canadian Civil Liberties Union calls Bill C-10, The Omnibus Crime Bill Unwise, Unjust, Unconstitutional

What I don’t understand is why our government would spend money we don’t have on jails we don’t need.

Razor wire and bars