Almost exactly one year after the Liberals and Conservatives voted to pass the infamous “Police State Act” Bill C-51 into law, the now governing Liberals have introduced new legislation to create the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians (NSICOP). They have championed this “oversight” committee as a big step in their promise to address the massive public outcry against Bill C-51 and the vast powers it granted government agencies, police and secret police to violate our democratic and human rights. As the saying goes, “The fine print is far more important that the selling price.” In this case, we don't even need to look that closely to see that NSICOP will not, as claimed, repair any damage done by Bill C-51.
Here's 6 reasons why:
1. The Committee is not independent, democratic or inclusive.
The plan now is that the Committee would consist of nine members – two from the Senate and seven from the House of Commons. Members are not elected, but “would be appointed by the Governor in Council on the recommendation of the Prime Minister” The Committee chair will be appointed by the Prime Minister, not elected by Committee members as promised by Liberals during the federal election.
2. The committee is severely limited in the information it has access to
Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale recently promised the committee would have, “the ability to look at any issue, any activity, any operation, any document.” However, under the proposal, the prime minister and his cabinet would be allowed to withhold any information or shut down any Committee investigation they claim to be “injurious to national security.” This makes it super convenient for them to censor or cover up important information they find politically damaging. There is no appeal process.
3. In the most important cases, it is not an oversight committee but a review committee
The Committee is not given access to information “respecting ongoing defence intelligence activities supporting military operations” or “relating directly to an ongoing investigation carried out by a law enforcement agency that may lead to a prosecution.” This means it cannot stop abuse as it unfolds, only assess the damage and offer recommendations after the fact. There is a massive difference – and there will certainly be cases when government agencies or the police agencies it's more convenient “to apologize rather than ask for permission” when it comes to human rights violations.
4. The committee is deliberately muzzled in what it can report
The Committee does not report to Parliament, but to the prime minister and his caucus. The caucus are then able to censor any information before it goes public, and can also manipulate the timing of its release. It would be also illegal for committee members to publicly discuss anything without authorization by the prime minister. The normal parliamentary privilege granted to MPs and senators, which allows them to speak without fear of prosecution, would not apply.
5. The committee will not be empowered to hear complaints from the public
There is no mechanism for membership or even input from individuals or organizations who either have specific expertise in the areas of National Security, or to those who are directly affected the decisions being made. This completely narrows the voices represented. Also, it is impossible for 9 MPs and an appointed “secretariat” of one person to actually stay on top of the vast amount of information related to National-Security which is constantly being created by a government such as Canada's which is continually engaged in wars, occupations and spying in the name of “national security”.
6. Bill C-51 is Still Completely Unchanged!
Most damning of all is the fact that one of the most hated laws in Canadian history remains completed unchanged. Privacy rights are still violated by sharing between government agencies without safeguards of accountability. CSIS can still seek secret judicial pre-authorization to violate the Charter of Rights and Freedoms or break existing laws. The vague language regarding what the new criminal offence of “promoting and advocating terror” remains, as do the new low thresholds of preventative arrest.
Repeal Bill C-51
All of these drastic new measures to supposedly protect us from terrorism, despite that the Canadian Civil Liberties Association revealted, “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.”
There are more problems with this proposed new Committee, just as there are many more problems with Bill C-51. However, it is clear that so long as Bill C-51 exists, our rights continue to be violated and undermined. We are not more “secure” when we have less rights. For these reasons it is important that we continue to educate, organize and mobilize to demand, “Repeal Bill C-51 Now!”
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