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Dear Ryan: I don't trust the motives behind Bill C-51

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Ryan Leef, Member of Parliament for Yukon


Dear Ryan,

"The government made this decision because we do not believe Canadians should be forced, under threat of fines, jail, or both, to disclose extensive private and personal information." 

The above statement came from the Prime Minster's Office in 2010 to justify the cutting of the mandatory Long Form Census.           

Can you explain how that squares with an increase in surveillance of ordinary Canadians by the RCMP and CSIS allowed through Bill C-51, the Anti-terrorism bill?

Bill C-51, introduced on January 30, has been rushed to committee already.

Did you even have time to read it?  Don't you think that something so important and so dangerous to our civil liberties requires better scrutiny?

Shall we start with what is not in Bill C-51?

Reading new legislation is hard. Every tiny word and phrase is defined and parsed to the smallest degree. Yet nowhere in Bill C-51, the Anti-terrorism Act is there a definition of "terrorism" or "terrorist." Can you explain this?

Bill C-51 is an omnibus bill. The reason for massive omnibus bills is to hide questionable legislation.  

Bill C-51 deals with "activity that undermines the security of Canada" through "interference with the capability of the Government of Canada in relation to intelligence, defence, border operations, public safety, the administration of justice, diplomatic or consular relations, or the economic or financial stability of Canada."    

"Economic or financial stability of Canada" could just as easily refer to a protesting grandmother standing in front of a bull dozer or a striking union member as it could a violent member of ISIS.  

Bill C-51 specifically "does not include lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression."  However, Gandhi, Rosa Parks and Grandma with the protest sign could all easily be found guilty of unlawful advocacy, protest and dissent under the broad and vague terms of Bill C-51. 

From a party that howled that the Long Gun Registry "criminalizes hard-working and law-abiding citizens," it's a bit rich, don't you think?           

Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) is to acquire "kinetic powers" thus creating a secret police force out of what used to be a spy agency. Secret police do not often have their illegal actions scrutinized because they are secret. Vladamir Putin also has a secret police force.

The Information Sharing Act within Bill C-51 allows government departments to share information about individuals who may not necessarily be terrorist suspects. Canada’s Privacy Commissioner, Daniel Therrien said, "Three national security agencies in Canada are subject to dedicated independent oversight of all of their activities.  However, most of the organizations that would receive and use more personal information under the legislation introduced today are not."

Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) has been paraded as the oversight body for Bill C-51.  But review is not the same as oversight. A review committee could only tell us it was wrong to send Maher Arar to Syria to be tortured, after the fact. An oversight committee might have prevented this.

Furthermore, SIRC is so underfunded and understaffed, that there is not a chance of the government, the RCMP or CSIS ever being held accountable.

Four former Prime Ministers and a long list of luminaries sent your government a letter asking for proper oversight of Bill C-51.  The letter contained this relevent sentence. "Protecting human rights and protecting public safety are complementary objectives, but experience has shown that serious human rights abuses can occur in the name of maintaining national security."

The Public Safety Minister Blaney and Justice Minister MacKay have refused to answer reasonable questions from Thomas Mulcair, preferring evasions and name calling. The Prime Minister didn’t even bother to attend the last two days of debate over Bill C-51.    

We do need measures to counteract terrorist threats, Ryan. But legal experts Craig Forcese and Kent Roach question how this bill will make the apprehension of would be terrorists more effective than the tools we already have.  Given that CSIS is badly underfunded, perhaps we can start with proper funding.  Then a responsible government might add some carefully scrutenized measures, with sunset clauses, to counteract terrorism. 

We have reason to distrust the motives behind Bill C-51, Ryan. The Prime Minister and his stooges have spent years framing environmentalists as "terrorists."  The Harper regime has a well documented history of attacks on critics. Individuals publishing impartial information have been denounced as enemies of Canada's interests. Why wouldn't Harper play the terrorist card to trample the civil liberties of those who get in his way?


Linda Leon

Linda Leon is not now, nor has she ever been, a member of any federal political party.  Letters to Ryan Leef are published monthly in rabble.ca and the Whitehorse Daily Star.

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