Bill C-51: A primer

Harper's new world order

Examining the 'Secret Police Act'

Image: Photo-illustration of Steven Harper's face on banner hanging from building, by Geoffrey Dow.

Strange bed-fellows:
Opposition to C-51 from all over the political spectrum

Worried about C-51?

You must be a terrorist!

By Joanna Kerr
Image: Conservative MP Diane Ablonczy's comments linking a Muslim advocacy group with terrorism were widely attacked as 'McCarthyesque'. Photo by THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick17 March 2015 — Are you now, or have you ever been, a terrorist?
That, in one form or another, is the question being asked over and over by Conservative MPs of expert witnesses called before the Commons standing committee reviewing Bill C-51, the so-called anti-terrorism law.
I spoke before the committee last week. I pointed to the danger in the bill’s much-expanded definition of national security and in its false conflation of peaceful protest with terrorism. I was expecting to be called on to defend our arguments, to cite evidence on how the bill’s sweeping new powers could be used against peaceful advocates for action on climate change.
No one on the government side seemed terribly interested in our argument — but they were very interested in us.
Conservative MP LaVar Payne asked me if I consider myself to be a threat to national security — because, he said, if I’m not a terrorist then why would I worry about an “anti-terrorism” bill? He added that our criticism of C-51 made him “wonder if your organization is a national security threat”. (I never got a chance to respond, since Payne kept talking to run out the clock.) (More)
Open Letter to Members of Parliament
C-51 dangerous — and ineffective

The following is an open letter addressed to all members of Parliament and signed by more than 100 Canadian professors of law and related disciplines.

February 27, 2015

Dear Members of Parliament,

Please accept this collective open letter as an expression of the signatories’ deep concern that Bill C-51 (which the government is calling the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015) is a dangerous piece of legislation in terms of its potential impacts on the rule of law, on constitutionally and internationally protected rights, and on the health of Canada’s democracy.

Beyond that, we note with concern that knowledgeable analysts have made cogent arguments not only that Bill C-51 may turn out to be ineffective in countering terrorism by virtue of what is omitted from the bill, but also that Bill C-51 could actually be counter-productive in that it could easily get in the way of effective policing, intelligence-gathering and prosecutorial activity. (More)


Civic literacy and the assault on Canadian democracy

By Murray Dobbin

Image: A crowd watches Parliament Hill. Detail of photo on TheTyee. 20 March 2015 — The Harper government's pursuit of its odious Secret Police Act (C-51) is just another chapter in the most through-going and massive social engineering project in the history of the country. Social engineering used to be one of the favourite phrases of the right in its attack on social programs — accusing both liberal-minded politicians and meddling bureaucrats with manufacturing the welfare state. They conveniently ignored the fact that there was huge popular demand and support for activist government.
That was the so-called golden age of capitalism and it wasn't just because of expanding government services. It was so-called because of a much broader and well-informed citizen engagement — both through social movements and as individual citizens. The level of trust in government was much higher than it is today. And absent from the picture were the factors that today dominate the political conversation: fear and economic insecurity.
Exactly how historians will describe this period in Canadian history is anyone's guess but one approach could be to look upon the Harper era as an experiment in revealing how vulnerable democracies are to political sociopaths bold enough and ruthless enough to bend or break every rule and tradition on which democracy's foundation rests. (More)
By Susan Wright
Huffington Post
Image: Photo of man surrounded by video cameras. Via Huffington Post22 March 2015 — Bill C-51 is an omnibus anti-terrorism bill that grants CSIS new information sharing powers and converts CSIS from a covert intelligence gathering organization to a covert enforcement agency.
No wonder Canadians don't know what the heck is going on!
Ms. Soapbox is here to offer four simple suggestions to keep you out of trouble when Stephen Harper's majority government finally passes this monstrous piece of legislation. (More)
By Tasha Kheiriddin
Image: Detail of cartoon via iPolitics.ca26 March 2015 — Bill C-51 was supposed to unite conservatives in the latest round of the War on Terror™. Instead, it’s dividing them — both on and off Parliament Hill.
This week, Conservative MP Michael Chong, never one to blindly toe the line, criticized the bill’s lack of oversight in a statement to the House of Commons: “However, while I fully support Bill C-51, I also believe we need greater oversight of Canadian security and intelligence agencies by a parliamentary committee of elected MPs, who are directly and democratically accountable to Canadians. That greater oversight is even more important as we give these agencies new powers to combat terrorism.” (More)
CBC News

Image: Screenshot of Edward Snowden on CBC Television.4 March 2015 — U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden says Canada has one of the "weakest oversight" frameworks for intelligence gathering in the Western world.

Snowden made the comments during a teleconference discussion hosted by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression and the Ryerson School of Journalism, moderated by CBC Radio host Anna Maria Tremonti. He was speaking via video link from Russia.

Snowden said he wouldn't specifically weigh in on the government's new anti-terror legislation, saying that whether it is good or bad is ultimately up for Canadians to decide. But he likened it to controversial U.S. laws, calling it "an emulation of the American Patriot Act." (More)

'We are the people we have been waiting for'

Chris Hedges on C-51: They have won, and it is up to us

By Chris Hedges
This is the speech Chris Hedges would have delivered at the Toronto protest against Bill C-51 on Saturday, if he had made it to the city in time. Weather delayed his plane, but was able to obtain the text of his address and present it here.
Image: Photo of journalist Chris Hedges.17 March 2015 — There are no internal constraints left to halt totalitarian capitalism. Electoral politics is a sham. The media is subservient to corporate power. The working class is being disempowered and impoverished. The legal system is a subsidiary of the corporate state. Any form of dissent, no matter how tepid, will soon to be blocked by an internal security apparatus empowered by anti-terrorist laws that will outstrip anything dreamed of by the East German Stasi state. And no one in Ottawa or Washington intends to help us. Opposition parties, such as the Democratic Party, may cry foul when out of power, but once in power they bow to the demands of the omnipotent military and security organs that serve our corporate masters.
Any state that has the ability to inflict full-spectrum dominance on its citizens is not a free state. It does not matter if it does not use this capacity today. It will use it, history has shown, should it feel threatened or seek greater control. The goal of wholesale surveillance, as Hannah Arendt wrote, is not, in the end, to discover crimes, "but to be on hand when the government decides to arrest a certain category of the population." No one who lives under constant surveillance, who is subject to detention anywhere at any time, whose conversations, messages, meetings, proclivities and habits are recorded, stored and analyzed, as ours are, can be described as free. The relationship between those who are constantly watched and tracked, and those who watch and track them, is the relationship between masters and slaves. (More)

Not only in Canada ...

What's scarier: Terrorism or governments blocking websites in its name?

By Glenn Greenwald
The Intercept
Image: Screenshot of French Government announcement of banned website.17 March 2015 - The French Interior Ministry on Monday ordered that five websites be blocked on the grounds that they promote or advocate terrorism. “I do not want to see sites that could lead people to take up arms on the Internet,” proclaimed Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve.
When the block functions properly, visitors to those banned sites, rather than accessing the content of the sites they chose to visit, will be automatically redirected to the Interior Ministry website. There, they will be greeted by a graphic of a large red hand, and text informing them that they were attempting to access a site that causes or promotes terrorism: “you are being redirected to this official website since your computer was about to connect with a page that provokes terrorist acts or condones terrorism publicly.”
No judge reviews the Interior Ministry’s decisions. The minister first requests that the website owner voluntarily remove the content he deems transgressive; upon disobedience, the minister unilaterally issues the order to Internet service providers for the sites to be blocked. This censorship power is vested pursuant to a law recently enacted in France empowering the interior minister to block websites. (More)

History shows 'lawful protest' clause a flimsy shield against surveillance, dirty tricks

By Reg Whitaker
Image: A more generous exemption for lawful protest would mean precious little once a potential threat of violence is detected. Photo: Greenpeace.28 March 2015 — A storm of criticism has engulfed the Harper government's Bill C-51, the Anti-Terrorism Act.
One of the leading points of contention is whether peaceful protesters will be caught up in the wide anti-terrorist net cast by the new legislation.
Opponents point to the expansive definition of national security threats that would now include ''interference'' with ''critical infrastructure'' or with ''the economic or financial stability of Canada.'' They suggest this could include, for example, First Nations and environmental protests against pipeline megaprojects. It's no surprise these groups feel anxious. Among other things, C-51 provides for increased information sharing, an expanded no-fly list, and new CSIS powers, including secret judicial warrants that permit agents to use any means — even break the law — to reduce threats. (More)

Victory or con game?

Government plans 4 amendments to soften Bill C-51

Conservatives offer revised version of anti-terror bill but 7 Canadian civil liberties and human rights groups call for it to be dropped

By Tonda MacCharles
CBC News
Image: Photo of protester with mouth taped, tape reads: 'C-51'. Photo by Graham Hughes/Canadian Press30 March 2015, OTTAWA — Seven civil liberties and human rights organizations continue to call on the Conservative government to drop Bill C-51 as parliamentarians get set to study a revised version of the anti-terror bill.

Government sources have told the Star the Conservatives will propose four amendments Tuesday as the Commons public safety committee starts the final process of studying the bill.

Meanwhile a Senate committee began its look at the bill today, even before the Commons finishes with it, against a backdrop of ongoing opposition.

The Conservative government suggests it will clarify that protest or dissent will not be targeted by the bill, by deleting the word “lawful” from the C51 exemptions from stronger information-sharing powers. A second amendment would clarify that CSIS agents will not have the authority to arrest people as part of new legislated powers to “disrupt” threats to national security. A third amendment would limit national security information sharing among 17 government and security agencies, rather than “with any person for any purpose.” And the fourth would drop wording that could allow the minister of Public Safety to order an airline to “do anything that, in the Minister’s opinion, is reasonable and necessary” to prevent someone on the “no-fly” list from travelling. (More)

Real alternatives
  Green Party offers 60 changes to Bill C-51
Image: Photo of NDP leader Thomas Mulcair.
Image: Screenshot of Elizabeth May speaking on Bill C-51.
By Kristie Smith
27 March 2015 — The experts have had their say at the National Security committee studying Bill C-51, the Conservatives’ divisive anti-terror legislation. Now the New Democrats say they’re ready to take an axe to it — if the government will let them.
NDP Public Safety critics Randall Garrison and Rosane Doré Lefebvre announced their list of proposed amendments this morning. Committee testimony finished last night and a clause-by-clause reading of the bill begins Tuesday.
“The testimony that we heard certainly confirmed what we’ve said from the beginning — that this is a dangerous and ineffective bill that should not be adopted,” said Garrison.
“We hope, after the kind of testimony we heard at committee and the unanimity of the witnesses in calling for improvements of the bill, that the government would be considering some amendments.” (More)
Green Party Press Release

30 March 2015 OTTAWA — Elizabeth May, Green Party Leader and Member of Parliament for Saanich – Gulf Islands, along with Deputy Leader Bruce Hyer, Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay – Superior North, announced their amendments to Bill C-51 at a press conference this morning. Ms. May and Mr. Hyer, who have been vocal critics, will table 60 amendments during clause-by- clause consideration of the bill.
“While there is no way to fix this deeply flawed bill, our duty as elected legislators compels us to protect Canadians from its most egregious faults,” said Ms. May. “Our amendments seek to protect Canadian’s Charter rights and make this country safer by eliminating the reckless and dangerous Conservative policies in C-51.”
The Green Party proposed amendments to each of the 5 parts of the omnibus terror bill. Part 1 would create an information sharing act that would allow almost every government department to share private information about citizens with virtually no restrictions.


Editor's Note: The Liberal Party of Canada claims to oppose Bill C-51 and promises to amend it should they win the next election but will vote for it in the current Parliament, a position that begs for a new definition of the term 'opposition'. — Geoffrey Dow

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