Here's the deal: Through Bill C-51 and other “national security” initiatives the Canadian government, police and spy agencies are trying to impose more access to our privation information, as well as demanding more power to override our human rights and basic freedoms. All of this with more secrecy and less accountability. At the same time, 2016 saw scandal after scandal continue to show how they cannot be trusted. Here's the top 6 scandals of 2016, which are 6 more reasons we need to continue to demand a full repeal of Bill C-51.
1. Multimillion Dollar Police Entrapment of “Domestic Terrorists”
After 37 months of imprisonment John Nutall and Amanda Korody walked free when their terrorism conviction was overturned in July. The British Columbia Supreme Court found them to be victims of a police entrapment.
The couple were found guilty by a jury last year for planting inert pressure cooker bombs on the B.C. legislature grounds in 2013, under the direction of an undercover RCMP officer who acted as their leader and facilitator. Nutall and Korody were both vulnerable recovering drug addicts living on social assistance when the RCMP moved in on them. The entire operation to entrap them involved over 240 officers who billed almost a million dollars in overtime alone over 5 months.
2. Secret Storage of Illegal Information on Thousands
In November, a federal court found that Canada's spy agency CSIS had used a huge and secretive data collection facility, the Operational Data Analysis Centre, to run unauthorized advanced data analytics to aid in its investigations. The court found that the database contained potentially massive amounts of data on innocent people who never under investigation - data which CSIS should have destroyed. What's more, CSIS now claims it is “unable to locate any records” of briefings or notes on the centre's operations and its communication with the government regarding them.
3. Police and Spy Agencies Continue Spying on Journalists
This December CSIS backtracked on its promise to reveal to a Senate committee how many Canadian journalists it spied on in the past, citing “operational security.” In Quebec, provincial police finally admitted they had obtained five years of call logs from at least six french language journalists in an attempt to discover their sources, and Montreal police also admitted it had secretly tracked another reporter.
4. Unregulated Use of Stingrays
Stingray devices trick nearby cellphones into connecting to their wireless network. Once they are connected, the Stingray user can collect information transmitted by the phone, including its location, data transmissions, texts, emails and voice conversations. The RCMP, Vancouver Police Department and the Ontario Provincial Police had all refused to confirm or deny whether they use Stingray devices despite years of constant requests and campaigns by civil liberties groups. In August of 2016 the Vancouver Police Department finally admitted to using a Stingray device, and that they would use them again.
This follows the revelation by a top secret document released by former U.S. spy agency contractor turned whistle-blower Edward Snowden that Canada's electronic spy agency, the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), secretly and illegally used information from the free internet service at the Toronto Pearson airport to track the wireless devices of thousands of innocent airline passengers for days after they left the airport.
5. Head of Canadian Spy Watchdog Calls for the Death of Whistle-blower Edward Snowden
This December, Michael Doucet, a former Canadian intelligence analyst, called for the death of Edward Snowden saying, “If Edward Snowden had worked for CSIS and did what he did, he should be shot.” What makes this so concerning is that he is the current executive director of a government watchdog agency, the Security Intelligence Review Committee. The SIRC reviews the highly classified operations of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). Extrajudicial executions! What kind of position is that to have for someone who is supposedly in charge of preventing spy agency misconduct?
6. Years of Secret Government Spying Finally Revealed
Historian Dennis Molinaro of Trent University has found documents detailing the RCMP's secret Cold War wiretapping program. They show police surveillance on suspected Soviet spies, communist sympathizers and "subversives," including gays and lesbians working in the public service, who were thought to be vulnerable to blackmail.
The original secret order was approved in 1951 by the cabinet of Prime Minister Louis St-Laurent, during the Korean War. Details of the program were withheld from the public, the courts and members of Parliament. Molinario thinks the program lasted through to the 1970's, although government officials still refuse to release the 65 year old secret order, or even confirm it exists.
Bill C-51 and the Sham “Public Consultation”
Despite each of these scandals being a huge deal in their own right, the biggest scandal of 2016 was the Liberal government's continued use of Bill C-51 despite election campaign promises to respect our rights. Under Bill C-51 17 government agencies are sharing our personal information without accountability, CSIS is using its new undefined powers of “disruption” and the RCMP continues to detain people and threaten them into signing “peace bonds” which severely limit their freedoms. All of these without any real public knowledge or input, as Bill C-51 doesn't require any.
The Liberals promised national security oversight committee turned out to be a toothless and unelected group whose access to the information it can obtain or reveal is controlled by the Prime Minister's Office. The belated “public consultation” about Bill C-51 and national security turned out to be more of an introduction by the government of the new measures they are trying to impose to store all of our Internet usage data!
Most importantly, poor and working people continue to live under the shadow of Bill C-51 and the threat it represents to our rights, and our right to organize. Legal experts have stated that Bill C-51's vague language targeting those who support “terrorism in general” or who “interfere with the economic or financial stability of Canada” mean that basically anyone can by targeted. Especially those critical of government policies.
The government continues to say, “Don’t worry, you can trust us.” This year's scandals say completely the opposite! Poor and working people need to continue educating, organizing and mobilizing for a full repeal of Bill C-51. Our rights were won by organizing around our common demands, and we must defend them together as well.
REPEAL BILL C-51!
CALL FOR AN INDEPENDENT PUBLIC INQUIRY!
OUR SECURITY LIES IN DEFENDING THE RIGHS OF ALL!
Follow Thomas Davies on Twitter: @thomasdavies59
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