The New Objects of Vision
Unfortunately, we don’t really know the full extent to which CSIS would use the powers contained in C-51, because the government won’t tell us. As a result, Canadians are unable to have a full democratic debate on whether the proposed legislative changes are worth the price we will pay in civil liberties.
These new powers are subject to judicial approval processes only when they would violate Canadian law or the Charter, in a proceeding in which the government is the only party, there is no possibility of appeal, and no public disclosure of any warrant issued.
– NB – see “The Real Agenda Behind Bill C-51” The Walrus, April 15, 2015: http://thewalrus.ca/the-real-agenda-behind-bill-c-51/
In June (2015) I had the opportunity to speak with a few Conservative Senators who voted for C-51. I asked over 40 of these people the same question: “Senator ________ , my name is Clay McCann, and I’m writing to ask why you felt it necessary to violate rights guaranteed to Canadians in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms by voting for Bill C-51.”
Very few bothered to answer. But two did, Bob Runciman and Dennis Patterson. Of these, Senator Patterson merely suggested that it was now up to the courts to decide whether C-51 violated the Charter: “It will be determined by the Courts. The Government of Canada does not draft legislation without being advised by Department of Justice lawyers that the legislation is ‘charter proof’.” Aside from Patterson neglecting to capitalize “charter” in this sentence, he makes a grievous error in assuming that it is up to the courts. It is, in point of fact, the Senate’s job to ensure Canadians are protected from any potentially toxic legislation passing into law.
The other senator, Bob Runciman, responded by suggesting I simply didn’t understand: “If u read my 2nd and 3rd reading speeches on the bill, u will have a full explanation.” I resonded by asking: “Is there an appropriate explanation for violating the Charter of Rights and Freedoms of every Canadian? That’s a rhetorical question, Bob.” Then I read the third intro, as the second was not available online. Afterwards I responded (below) to Bob’s speech but he opted to drop out of the conversation.
To The Hon. Robert Runciman, firstname.lastname@example.org
Next you talk about the necessity of the bill because “terrorists of today are well financed”. Two points here: 1. will this new legislation change the financial standing of ISIS? 2. terrorist organizations around the globe are well-financed, in part, because of the criminal behavior of some of our leading global banks, like HSBC. Will the new law help authorities go after HSBC and similar banks that aid and abet terrorists? “No” to both, wouldn’t you agree?
Your next move is an interesting one, “if we refrain from taking a strong stance, if we fail to make smart legislative changes, we do so at the peril of our national security”. Hmmm… so we must protect our national security by rescinding key civil liberties of all Canadians, such as the reasonable right to privacy? the right to freedom of expression? the right to protest against grievous destruction of the Queen’s dominions, such as waterways and lands, perpetrated by corporations who pay low penalties and fewer taxes? In effect, protect security by making Canadians less secure? Is that what you meant?
You’re right, I am getting a full explanation!
Next you go on a bit about Minister Blaney trumpeting the new bill’s requirements that “all departments and agencies affected by the information-sharing provisions of the bill will be required to complete a privacy impact assessment in consultation with the Privacy Commissioner of Canada to ensure the privacy rights of Canadians are protected”. Whew, that’s a relief. Especially when that very same Privacy Commissioner of Canada expressed grave misgivings-1 about the bill when it went through hearings in the spring, especially insofar as it would not protect the privacy of Canadians, but, in fact, accomplish quite the opposite. I see now what you mean about improving national security.
The propaganda rambles a bit and then we get to the jewel of your address: “The bill does not give CSIS officers the right to infringe on Canadians’ Charter rights. If a Federal Court judge does not believe the activity can be conducted in a manner that is consistent with the Charter, then he or she is under no obligation to issue the order.” A couple of things here: 1. CSIS has already been found in violation of the Charter, even before this bill passes into law, conducting illegal surveillance and collection of personal data on protestors at the Joint Review Panel’s final argument hearings in Terrace BC in June of 2013. And there’s more, but I want to keep this short. 2. The bill certainly gives the RCMP the right to infringe on Canadians’ Charter rights, but you make no mention of this. Once the bill receives Royal Assent, Canadians can be detained for up to seven days without even being charged with an offence. How is this not a violation of habeus corpus-2, one of the cornerstones of the universal declaration of human rights? More importantly, how is it not a direct violation of Section 9 of the Charter-3?
Here’s a really interesting part, where you go on about, “section 83.01 of the Criminal Code that, in a nutshell, defines “terrorist activity” as an act committed in whole or in part for a political, religious or ideological purpose with the intention of intimidating the public with regard to its security or compelling the government or an organization to either take or abandon a certain course of action”. Isn’t it strange to think that Senators voting in favour of Bill C-51 could be defined as “terrorist activity” under this definition? First, you’ve got the “ideological purpose with the intention of intimidating the public with regard to its security” represented by the Conservative Party’s ongoing insistence that Canadians “aren’t safe” and that we need to abdicate our civil liberties to become “safer”. The you’ve got Canadians coast to coast who think C-51 is an affront to our basic rights and freedoms, who are then compelled to “take… a certain course of action” which, in this case, is firing the Conservatives, repealing the alarmist C-51 as a jingoistic piece of rubbish, and finally promoting Senate reform. See? In this context, you, and Stalinists like you, will be flushed out of the Senate forever, and rightfully branded as terrorists: scary idiots who would threaten the security of Canada.
Runciman’s address at the third reading of C-51 to the senate: http://www.bobrunciman.com/index.cfm?ID=111&ViewItem=Yes&IDln=224&ShowText=No
2. See Article 9 of the Universal decalration of Human Rights: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/
3. Section 9 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Section_Nine_of_the_Canadian_Charter_of_Rights_and_Freedoms