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:
P.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.
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.
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