The most dangerous law passed by the
Parliament of Canada before it closed for
summer barely made the news. Seriously
– did anyone see anything about “National
Security” Bill C-59 becoming law? Apart
from a couple of short online articles, and
being listed in a few summaries of the last
week of Parliament, there was an eerie silence
about a law that so profoundly impacts our
democratic and human rights in Canada.
Prime Minister Trudeau might blame the
silence on a busy week, which included
declaring a National Climate Emergency
on Tuesday, and Re-Approving the
Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion on
Wednesday. However, it doesn’t take a
genius to see that the Prime Minister and
his government stalled this potentially
politically explosive law for four years. They
had seen, and benefited, from the widespread
outrage to the democratic and human rights
violations found in former Conservative
Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s “Anti-
Terrorism” Bill C-51. So despite promising
that “fixing” Bill C-51 would be a top priority
when elected four years ago, they stalled until
they were sure the movement defending
democratic and human rights had died down
before slipping in Bill C-59.
Destroying Human Rights Law
Now we’re stuck with some leftovers from Bill
C-51, some new provisions under Bill C-59,
and a lot of confusion about who is allowed
to do what, and what the government actually
thinks our rights are. Tim
McSorley, national coordinator
of the Ottawabased
summarized the confusion,
“The national security field is
an opaque one, and staying informed of all
the negative consequences of this bill will be
The ICLMG has a good summary of the most
concerning parts of Bill C-59, which we will
reprint here because capitalist mainstream
media such as the Globe and Mail, National
Post, CBC, CTV or Maclean’s, to name a
few, certainly won’t. Bill C-59:
- Continues to allow CSIS to engage in secret
and dangerous threat disruption powers;
- Maintains the secretive No Fly List, which
violates due process and has never been
proven to be effective;
- Preserves overly-broad information sharing
rules that infringe on privacy and free
- Improves on review of national security
activities by creating the National Security
and Intelligence Review Agency, but falls far
short by transferring the weakest aspects of
current national security review bodies to the
- Grants sweeping new surveillance powers
to both the CSE and CSIS, including the
collection of metadata, vaguely defined
“publicly available information,” and the
incredibly broad category of “unselected
information” (which essentially means any
- Introduces new powers to give CSIS
agents or designated individuals immunity
for committing crimes in the line of their
- Fails to prohibit the use and sharing, in
all circumstances, of information linked to
mistreatment and torture;
- Allows the CSE to engage in broad and
powerful new “active cyber operations” with
little oversight, creating the risk of retaliation
as well as attacks from leaked new cyberweapons.
So there’s a lot to be really worried about –
especially because we are stuck with a new
Frankenstein approach to National Security
and Anti-Terrorism Laws - with parts of Bill
C-51 and Bill C-59 being stuck together to
create something unrecognizable.
Already we are seeing huge accountability
issues related to the new powers. Public Safety
Canada has quietly set up a new centre to
assist security and intelligence departments
in the use of the new Security of Canada
Information Disclosure Act (SCIDA).
SCIDA allows for your personal information
to be shared by security intelligence agencies
as part of national security Bill C-59.
Ken Rubin uncovered the story and reported
on it in the Ottawa Star on June 13, “It turns
out the privacy commissioner, who, under
the terms of Bill C-59, is to be consulted by
security intelligence agencies and can review
SCIDA’s personal-data-sharing processes,
has not heard of this centre either, nor has
the public, MPs or the news media."
Not off to a good start.
Maybe the new centre is next door to the
Canadian Securities Exchange (CSE) new
$1.2 billion, 84 acres facility which is also
next door to the CSIS building in Ottawa?
A CBC investigation found that the “CSE
spends over $400 million a year, and employs
about 2,000 people, almost half of whom are
involved in intercepting phone conversations,
and hacking into computer systems
supposedly in other countries.”
This Was Never About “Terrorism” or
When Bill C-51 was being pushed through
parliament by Stephen Harper, Amnesty
International, the British Columbia Civil
Liberties Association, the Canadian Civil
Liberties Association, the Canadian Muslim
Lawyers Association, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, La Ligue des Droits et Libertés and the National Council of Canadian Muslim released an open statement which said, “Throughout the Parliamentary hearings on Bill C-51, not a single witness offered a concrete example of how the draconian measures in Bill C-51 would better protect public safety.”
So if the laws aren’t mean to ensure public safety, then why have them in the beginning?
There are numerous clear examples of the RCMP, CSIS and police force targeting peaceful social justice organizers under the justification of “fighting terrorism”. So much so that it’s obvious to many that the government of Canada is giving these forces more tools to target dissent, not to protect anybody from the minimal terrorist threat which exists in Canada.
What Are the Real Targets?
We previously covered the BC Civil Liberties Association’s lawsuit against CSIS for spying against peaceful groups organizing against new oil pipelines. CSIS tried unsuccessfully to keep the contents of the lawsuit secret. BCCLA Executive Director Josh Paterson detailed how CSIS documents reveal the agency was watching people and groups opposed to pipeline expansion - including a small gathering in a Kelowna church basement and the All Native Basketball Tournament in Prince Rupert.
“The information seems to have been shared between different agencies, including the RCMP, the National Energy Board and even to oil and pipeline companies,” he observed. “That is not the job of Canada’s spy and police agencies, to be reporting to corporations on the democratic activities of citizens.”
A June 29 Toronto Star article titled, “Trans Mountain protesters warned they may already be under surveillance” notes that, “Once a person’s information is in the hands of the RCMP or CSIS, Canadian national security law also allows it to be shared between a wide range of government departments under certain circumstances. Bill C-59, which recently received royal assent, grants permission to do so if the person in question is involved in ‘significant or widespread interference’ with critical infrastructure.”
The article also quotes Brenda McPhail, director of the Canadian Civil Liberties’ Association’s privacy, technology and surveillance project, who explained how the new language in Bill C-59 can be used to target organizers, “Increasingly, security forces view protests as potential sites of violence rather than constitutionally protected spaces to express dissatisfaction or political opinion.”
The article then continues, “Through their ATIP [Access to Information and Privacy Requests], Walby and Jeffrey Monaghan, an assistant professor at Carleton University’s Institute for Criminology and Criminal Justice, found CSIS and the RCMP take part in semi-annual meetings with energy industry representatives called Utility and Energy Sector Stakeholder briefings. The energy representatives all possessed security clearances allowing them to view classified intelligence.” Do we need more proof that the government of Canada and its security and law enforcement institutions are agents of Capitalist corporations and their profit-driven market economy?
Use Them Or Lose Them
So the government of Canada obviously and conclusively feels more accountable to oil company executives than to the working and poor people who are targeted by this growing web of confusing laws, government agencies and rubber stamp oversight bodies. The obvious effect is that people become fearful of organizing or expressing critical opinions for fear of being targeted. This “chilling effect” could have a devastating impact on the right to freedom of speech and assembly. We need as many people as possible demonstrating as often as possible to make sure the government isn’t able to scare us all into silence. We also need the unions, civil liberty and human rights organizations who played a large role in the original mass protests against Bill C-51 to do the same against Bill C-59. The democratic and human rights consequences are the same regardless if it’s Conservative Harper or Liberal Trudeau; they are the two sides of the same coin. Legendary anti-apartheid fighter Nelson Mandela said, “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it.” He and millions of black South Africans fought against unjust laws and against all odds defeated apartheid. We need to use this example and keep fighting. We will win.
Trudeau, Respect Our Human Rights!
Follow Thomas Davies on Twitter: @thomasdavies59
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