“Didn't the Liberals say they were going to do something about that?” ?
As someone who for the past 47 Mondays has participated in a weekly picket demanding the repeal of Bill C-51, I've spoken with hundreds of people and heard a lot of things. The vast majority agree with us, and to be perfectly honest, I can count on two hands the number of people I've met who support Bill C-51. Lately though, since the election of the Justin Trudeau and the Liberal Party, we've met a lot of people surprised Bill C-51 still exists. This is because despite the fact that the Liberal Party had promised “fixing” Bill C-51 would be a priority once elected, almost three months after taking office they have said very little about it. What little they have said continues to be vague and non-committal.
In the meantime, the biggest attack on our democratic and human rights in decades continues to be a law and continues to enable secret violations of our rights by government agencies, the police and the secret police. How exactly are they using it? I couldn't tell you, it's secret, and that's a big part of the problem.
The good news is that the broad network of organizations and individuals who opposed Bill C-51 when it was rammed through Parliament by the Conservatives (while the Liberals also voted in favour) has continued to organize and is refusing to to be distracted from its main demand of, “Repeal Bill C-51 Now!”
Liberals Continue to Stall
We should not forget how vast Bill C-51 is. It's 62 pages long, and while there are so many problematic elements, a recent statement by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association reaffirming their demand of a repeal of Bill C-51 outlines some of the major issues,
“We argued that privacy rights would be threatened by an exponential increase in personal information sharing across government agencies and foreign actors, without safeguards or accountability mechanisms.
We questioned CSIS’s [Canada's secret police] extraordinary new powers to take covert action, and, incredibly, to seek judicial warrants pre-authorizing its agents to violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
We warned that the new criminal offences of promoting and advocating terror would chill legitimate dissent; that lower thresholds on already exceptionally broad powers, such as preventive arrest, would further undermine due process rights; and that the procedural flaws in the new Secure Air Travel Act would unfairly restrict Canadians’ mobility rights.
In our view, all of this amounted to overboard, unnecessary, dangerous, and unconstitutional legislation. Although we asked the government repeatedly, not once did we receive specifics on how any part of C-51 could have prevented the attacks of 2014, or on why pre-existing legislation was insufficient to protect us.”
Given that all of this continues to be law, it has been infuriating for many that government statements about Bill C-51 have been few and far between since the Liberals were elected. Despite being a supposed “priority”, all we have been told is that the new Minister of Public Safety, Ralph Goodale will be working with Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould to deal with what the Liberals call the “problematic” aspects of Bill C-51. Liberal MP David McGuinty will apparently be leading a future Parliamentary oversight committee.
Why a Parliamentary Oversight Committee is Not Enough
What little the Liberals have promised does not address our fundamental concerns about the rights violations enabled by Bill C-51. It is true that Canada is the only country among the eerily named “Five Eyes” group of spy partners which includes Canada, Britain, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand, that does not have Parliamentary Oversight Committee for its security agencies. However, if anything the record of these countries and their committees show that they are anything but a guarantee for our rights.
Minister Goodale goes to Paris and London for advice on balancing rights and security?
That's great, the French government passed a new law this year which allows intelligence agents to plant cameras and recording devices in private homes and cars as well as to intercept phone conversations without judicial oversight. The country has also been under a 3 month government imposed State of Emergency which enable to the police the right to set curfews, limit the movement of people and forbid mass gatherings. Security services and the police can also conduct house searches at any time without judicial oversight and enforce house arrest. Is this our model?
Britain’s Intelligence and Security Committee of Parliament is often referred to as the standard for government oversight committees. Yet it was former US National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden who revealed that British spies are running an online surveillance operation so vast that it gathers more information than even US spies! What was the committee doing while this was going on?
What's This About Public Consultation?
It's a bit strange that Minister Goodale would think he'd need to take a long flight over the Atlantic to get advice about Bill C-51. Organizations and individuals across Canada have been making it clear from many different perspectives for over a year now. Over 311,000 people have signed the online petition demanding the immediate repeal of Bill C-51, making it one of the most popular petitions in the history of Canada. The Guardian newspaper also reported, “No legislation in memory has united such a diverse array of prominent opponents as the proposed legislation...The campaign to stop Bill C-51 grew to include virtually every civil-rights group, law professor, retired judge, author, editorialist and public intellectual in Canada.”
So it's pretty insincere for the Liberals to play dumb and act like the public hasn't already made it clear that Bill C-51 is one of the most hated laws in the history of Canada and needs to be repealed. If they want to do a public consultation about balancing rights and security, fine, but there's nothing stopping them from using their majority in parliament to repeal Bill C-51 and start a fresh, honest conversation. Leaving Bill C-51 and all of its human rights violations in place, especially those limiting free speech, while saying you want an open consultation doesn’t make any sense.
In the same vein, as organizations like Openmedia,ca and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association point out, there is no real use in trying to amend Bill C-51. It's a rotten law forced through by a rotten government with rotten intentions. There have already been 12 new broad anti-terrorist laws passed in Canada since September 11, 2001. The responsibility is with the government to convince the public any news laws are necessary, not ours to convince them that they aren't. They have not convinced us.
Building the Movement to Repeal Bill C-51 Continues
The Working Group to Stop Bill C-51, which has organized those 47 weekly pickets, will continue to do so until Bill C-51 is repealed. We are currently building toward a major action for the “51st Picket Against Bill C-51” on February 28th. On February 27th we will also be hosting an all day conference to bring the many forces opposed to Bill C-51 together to discuss moving forward to Repeal Bill C-51.
Across Canada groups continue to organize their own actions demanding a Repeal of Bill C-51, and the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Journalists for Freedom of Expression are continuing their charter challenge of Bill C-51 in Ontario's Supeior Court of Justice. After a post-election slowdown, Bill C-51 and those demanding its repeal are again making headlines across the country.
So when I'm standing with other supporters and our petition in front of a skytrain station in Vancouver and someone stops and says, “Didn't the Liberals say they were going to do something about that?” I'm always ready to answer, “Yes they did say a few things, but no they haven't done anything. If you'd like to sign this petition and get involved in the movement opposing it, we can make sure they have no choice but to repeal it!” So, with many others across Canada, we will continue educate, organize and mobilize until we win the repeal of Bill C-51! Join us!
Follow Thomas Davies on Twitter: @thomasdavies59
Back to Article Listing