“Since 9/11, our disproportionate fear of terrorism has been used to slowly increase the powers of intelligence and security agencies without proof that these powers are necessary to keep us safe, and with always greater risks and impact on our civil liberties. This is called the national security creep. We must not allow C-59 to continue this dangerous and damaging trend.”- Tim McSorley, National Coordinator for the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group
As Parliament reconvened in September, one of the major issues to be dealt with is the Liberal's Bill C-59, which they put forward as a “fix” to the wholly condemned “Anti-Terrorism Act” Bill C-51. While most groups acknowledge Bill C-59 does soften some of the most flagrant human rights violations, a coalition of 38 organizations and experts recently issued an open letter explaining that overall Bill C-59 does not fix the ills of Bill C-51 and fails to protect human rights.
The concerns of the organizations, which include Amnesty International Canada, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association, include:
“- The newly renamed Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act still permits far too much information to flow between too many departments;
- The no-fly list still lacks adequate due process and funding to address complaints;
- The bill fails to reverse the low threshold the Conservative bill set for terrorism peace bonds that can limit a suspect's freedoms;
- Preventative detention powers introduced in 2001 are still in place and remain deeply problematic;
the risk for abuse of CSIS disruption powers is reduced, but the government has yet to demonstrate either their necessity or constitutionality;
- Newly created oversight agencies lack the guarantees necessary to ensure their effectiveness;
- The general risk that security activities will contribute to torture remains, and
- The bill legitimizes troubling conduct, including mass surveillance and extensive data-mining.”
This also comes as Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale issued new directives to the RCMP , CSIS and the Canada Border Services Agency which leaves the door open to the use of information gained through torture, “when necessary to prevent loss of life or significant personal injury.” This is especially troubling because there is an admission that these agencies were already using information gained through torture, and he essentially still leaves future use to their discretion – which is open to massive abuse.
At the same time, a B.C. Supreme Court judge acquitted Othman Hamdan on four terrorism charges related to his Facebook posts. Justice Bruce Butler criticized the RCMP’s method of presenting its evidence, pointing out that because the police only took screenshots of parts of Mr. Hamdan's Facebook posts, so other content that could have provided context was not preserved. Mr. Hamdan, who represented himself, also pointed out that the translations from Arabic were full of errors.
What does it all mean? Basically the government and police forces keep telling us to “trust them” with new powers to violate human rights - as they continue to show they should absolutely not be trusted. The new open letter is a great step forward in addressing the falsehoods of Bill C-59, and should be followed up with continued education, organization and mobilization to Repeal Bill C-51 and Scrap Bill C-59. The Working Group to Stop Bill C-51 in Vancouver just held its successful 134th weekly action – imagine if these actions were replicated across the country in a consistent and coordinated campaign. We need to make it loud and clear to Justin Trudeau that there is no such thing as partial human rights, and that we are willing to organize together to defend and extend them!
REPEAL BILL C-51!
SCRAP BILL C-59!
OUR SECURITY LIES IN DEFENDING THE RIGHTS OF ALL!
Follow Thomas Davies on Twitter: @thomasdavies59
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