As the recent Cambridge Analytica “data mining” scandal unfolds, many are becoming more aware and more concerned about how much of their personal and private information is being collected without their consent on the internet. While the Trudeau government has spoken out against what happened, it's completely hypocritical given their current efforts to completely ramp up their own agencies abilities to collect our personal information without justification through their updated national security law Bill C-59. While they had promised they would “fix” the Conservatives hated “Anti-Terrorism Law” Bill C-51, in reality they are trying push through new data collection powers which have human rights and civil liberties organizations speaking out.
In response to the scandal. where data was “harvested” without consent from 50 million Facebook users for the Trump election campaign, Justin Trudeau responded that, “I think we all need to make sure we are using modern tools in a responsible way.” Scott Brison, the acting minister for democratic institutions, also said he would be open to strengthening federal privacy laws even further to better defend those who share their information online.
However, this doesn't stand right with what Micheal Vonn, Policy Director of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association and Tim McSorley, National Coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group summarized in a recent joint article on the Liberals Bill C-59:
“Understanding Canadians’ deep concerns about undue surveillance, racial and religious profiling, due process and free speech, civil liberties and human rights organizations in Canada have general consensus on the biggest problems with C-59: first, national security agencies will be empowered like never before to conduct mass surveillance; second, it is impossible to effectively challenge your inclusion on the “no-fly list”; and third, the CSE (Canada’s NSA) will be authorized to conduct cyberattacks and we have shockingly little idea of the implications of this.”
They found the Liberal promises that C-59 would include more oversight mechanisms nonsensical, “Bill C-59 also expressly empowers mass surveillance through the collection of bulk data and suspiciously non-defined 'publicly available' data. The terrible irony is that this means instead of reining in mass surveillance, the new oversight bodies will be giving an official seal of approval to mass surveillance.”
They summarized, “Canadians were told that the new law would fix the old law. Instead, we got a bill that nominally addresses some concerns, but exploits the opportunity to introduce more radical new powers for national security agencies.” Canada's Privacy Commissioner Daniel Therrien agrees, “On issues related to the sharing and retention of personal information, we do not believe Bill C-59 attains the standards of privacy that would adequately protect Canadians.”
The Working Group to Stop Bill C-51 has been organizing weekly actions to defend our democratic and human rights from these so-called “Anti-Terrorism” laws for over three years. Trudeau and every single Liberal MP is on record as voting in favour of the Harper Conservatives Bill C-51, and now they are even more on the record as putting forward a law which is in vital ways worse for our privacy and security.
Throughout the month of March the Working Group was busy taking advantage of some improved weather and recent discussion on rights and privacy. Four picket and petition drives were held at the busy transit hubs of Metrotown, Joyce, Stadium-Chinatown and Broadway-City Hall. This brought the number of weekly actions up to 160 straight weeks – one of the longest ongoing protests in his history of the country.
This is an important moment for groups defending human and democratic rights and opposing Bill C-59. The Liberals have been trying to fast-track the Bill through parliament but given the ongoing scandal and public interest in privacy and surveillance – it's an opportunity to show what they really up to. When the Conservatives first introduced Bill C-51, the responding protest movement was broad and active, but lost momentum after the Conservatives lost the elections and Trudeau promised to “fix” Bill C-51. Now that it's completely obvious they will “fix” nothing – we need to continue to work to mobilize in the same way to defeat Bill C-59. The Working Group the Stop Bill C-51 will be continuing its weekly campaigns and calls and other groups across Canada to ramp up activity as well.
Repeal Bill C-51!
Scrap Bill C-59!
Justin Trudeau – Respect Our Privacy and Human Rights!
Follow Thomas Davies on Twitter: @thomasdavies59
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