Justin Trudeau is the same as that slick used car dealer in the movies: He gives you a great price on a shiny car, which then breaks down a block away from the dealership. His latest lemon is the Liberals new Bill C-59. This proposed law is their long promised “fix” of the Harper government’s controversial “National Security” Bill C-51. Passing Bill C-51 in 2016 ensured the end of almost 10 years of Conservative rule after massive public backlash against its wholesale disregard for human rights in the name of “fighting terrorism”. Now Justin Trudeau has added some touch up paint and an air freshener and is trying to sell us that same car again.
Bill C-51 greatly expanded police, spy agency, and government agency's powers to spy on, detain and limit our democratic and human rights. Among vast changes, it granted CSIS undefined powers of “disruption” which included explicitly violating the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, 17 Government agencies were given the ability to share our personal and private information without a warrant, and the law's language was so broad that countless legal experts pointed out it could be used to limit the freedom of practically anyone.
Crucially, as an open letter signed by 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 pointed out, “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 for two years we've been living under this anti-human law that the government never even justified in the first place.
Public Relations Government
It took Trudeau's Liberals a year and half to introduce Bill C-59, just as parliament is about to take a 3 month summer break. In the meantime, everything they've done on the file of human rights and security have been meaningless public relations stunts. Their proposed national security oversight committee? All of its members will be appointed by the Prime Minister's Office, and the information it receives and shares must also be approved. The Liberal “public consultation” on national security? Despite promising to release the data of all the submissions they received, they instead opted to hide that and release a slick report written by a controversial New York public relations firm.
Bill C-59 – More Style Than Substance
Now we have Bill C-59 – which at 150 pages is long and difficult to summarize, just like its predecessor. It includes a new national security review committee and an intelligence commissioner, a tightening of language and increased burden of proof required before detaining someone for supporting terrorism, new limitations on how CSIS can violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and it is slightly more difficult to pre-emptively detain people without criminal charge.
So if all these are improvements, what's there to complain about?
Most importantly, if all of Bill C-59 is passed our human rights are still overall much behind where we were when it's predecessor Bill C-51 was first passed. Taking one step forward after taking 12 steps back is not a victory. Especially when we didn't need to step backwards in the first place.
Crucially, CSIS still has powers of “disruption” which include “limiting” the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Under Bill C-59 they would have also have broad new immunity from prosecution for breaking laws!
17 different government agencies will still be sharing your personal information without a warrant.
Police will still be able to preventative detain us without charges for a week. They can continue to intimidate people into signing “peace bonds” limiting their freedoms.
CSIS would have explicit new data collection capabilities to use against the public, and the secretive Communications Security Establishment (CSE) would have new powers to launch defensive and offensive cuber attacks around the world.
All of this, and a whole lot more, and they still haven't explained how this would make us any safer. Remember that countries like the U.S., France and England have shown that continually beefing up “anti-terrorism” laws by taking away rights and freedoms is completely ineffective in actually combating terrorism – in fact it does the opposite.
Human Rights Should Not be Up for Negotiations
Some mainstream media commentators as well as some of Bill C-51's original critics have stated that Bill C-59's measures, “get a lot of things right” are “solid gains” or are a “step forward”. This misses the point though. Human rights should never be up for negotiation. Bill C-51 was a massive, broad, unnecessary and unjustified attack on our fundamental human rights. Anything short of the full Repeal of Bill C-51 which hundreds of thousands of people across Canada repeatedly demanded is still overall a step backwards.
It could also be tempting to say, “Well right now I feel comfortable expressing my opinion without getting put in jail or on a 'no fly' list.” This may be true for some people, but it's not usually about what is happening right now but could or will happen down the road. Just because you don't need to use all the tools in your toolbox immediately doesn't mean you don't always want them there.
The government is always fine with opposition, as long as it doesn't feel threatened.
In 2010, almost 1105 people were arrested in the largest mass arrest in Canadian history during the G20 Summit in Toronto. The vast majority were taking part in peaceful protests and were later released without charges. Only one senior police officer was found guilty of “misconduct” and ordered to forfeit 30 paid days six years later.
This was before C-51 and C-59. What is possible now is much great and much more dangerous. What is needed in more safeguards on our rights, not less.
They Will Use It Against Us
Overall, the Liberals know that life is continually getting worse for poor and working people across Canada. While they recently announced they will increase military spending 70%, hospitals and schools are falling apart. People can't afford to live anymore – with the average debt to income ratio at 169.4% - up 23% from a decade ago! Obviously, this creates anger, frustration, and demands for change. This is why Bill C-51 was created, and why Bill C-59 doesn't address its fundamental violations. The Canadian government is preparing to deal with unrest as it continues its policies of wars and occupations abroad, and cutbacks at home. Trudeau's campaign slogan was “Real Change Now”. It's obvious he will not deliver. It's time for people to take up that slogan for themselves, and we can start by Repealing Bill C-51 and Scrapping Bill C-59!
Follow Thomas Davies on Twitter: @thomasdavies59
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