C-51

Unions Push Liberals to Repeal Bill C-51

Labour groups continue to urge the federal government to take action on Bill C-51, which was passed in June and remains in place. The law vastly expands government surveillance, provides new powers to the police and CSIS and may criminalize ordinary political activity.

The Liberals initially supported the legislation, but have promised to repeal unspecified “problematic elements” and undertake public consultations. However, any mention of Bill C-51 was notably absent from the Justin Trudeau’s Throne Speech on Dec. 4.

Daniel Therrien, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, expressed grave concern about the bill in March, particularly its information sharing provisions.

“The scale of information sharing being proposed is unprecedented, the scope of the new powers conferred by the Act is excessive, particularly as these powers affect ordinary Canadians, and the safeguards protecting against unreasonable loss of privacy are seriously deficient,” he said in a submission to the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

On Thursday Dec. 10, Therrien expressed hope that the new Liberal government would follow-through on its commitments and engage in an open debate.

On the same day, Paul Finch, the treasurer of BCGEU, reiterated his opposition to the legislation to rabble and described past elements of the campaign against it.

“We launched a National Day of Action, we were able to organize over 70 demonstrations in conjunction with Leadnow. …The reason we did it is because we felt that this is the most important issue for labour right now in terms of civil rights and civil liberties.”

Finch also called for a Royal Commission and criticized the manner in which the legislation was introduced.

“I actually think there needs to be a Royal Commission on it. [It] needs to drive and specifically deal with issues of intelligence oversight. …If you look at Bill C-51 right now, it was something that was put forward without any kind of broad consultation, without a Royal Commission being conducted,” he said, comparing it to the process of introduction that saw the creation of CSIS in 1984.

“The modern intelligence framework [was] based on the work of two prior Royal Commissions — the most recent was the McDonald Commission, which laid out why there needed to be a separation of powers between a policing agency and an intelligence agency. Before that, it was the RCMP that had an intelligence division that was basically rampantly violating civil liberties on a very political basis. And a lot of that was aimed at labour unions, so that’s kind of where our interest came from.”

Claims of surveillance

In their statement opposing Bill C-51, the CUPW cited a “lengthy history of CUPW being spied upon by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the RCMP.” Union activist Evert Hoogers, in a volume edited by historians and sociologists affiliated with Laurentian University, has examined what he found to be labour’s history of being “spied upon, infiltrated and harassed by national security agencies[.]”

In 1994, the agency denied allegations that it was spying on CUPW and also denied spying on the CBC and political parties.

More recently, claims of spying on postal union activists were made in 2000 by ex-agent John Farrell. The Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), the oversight body for CSIS, subsequently launched a probe over Farrell’s investigations. Reports on Farrell’s claims were made by Andrew Mitrovica, who would write a book centred on Farrell, who alleged that he was ordered to search through CUPW leaders’ garbage.

In April, before C-51 was passed, Mitrovica warned the public to “remember [Farrell’s story] when the Bill C-51 apologists in the media and academia… insist that since CSIS always plays by the rules, we don’t have to be alarmed by all those new powers they’re getting in Bill C-51 — powers that effectively make legal what under current law is very illegal.”

Hayden B. Peake, curator of the CIA’s Historical Intelligence Collection, in a review of Mitrovica’s work said that “[he and Farrell’s] allegations remain in doubt because there is no documentation” except irrelevant contract copies.

Looking ahead

Paul Finch told rabble that the BCGEU’s campaign going forward, launched with a broad privacy coalition, is going to call on the government to repeal key parts of the law.

“What’s happened is that the Liberals have made some vague promises about fixing the legislation but they haven’t specifically said what they’re going to fix. So it’s very unclear to everyone what they’re going to fix. …Our concern is that if we don’t have broad public pressure to repeal the worst parts of this bill, the changes will be cosmetic.”

While Finch pointed out that he would like to see the entire law repealed, he highlighted in particular its information-sharing provisions, alluding to the Edward Snowden revelations.

“Really, the linchpin of our concern is the provisions allowing, basically, normalized and legalized warrantless mass surveillance. That’s really the problem for us,” he said.

Finch also emphasized that the lack of response to the Snowden leaks is unwise, comparing its absence unfavourably to the McDonald Commission.

“In the wake of the Snowden revelations, [there] was no ensuing equivalent response or investigation that occurred. There was no Royal Commission struck, there was no equivalent response from government. In fact, the prior Conservative government basically said ‘business as usual.’ …The idea that people here should sacrifice their civil liberties to protect themselves from something that is statistically not a threat is absurd.”

Finch said that the next phases of their activism remain undetermined.

“There’s so many groups and individuals that have stepped forward and contributed to this campaign, that have led vast parts of it, that it’s hard to say what direction it’ll take. I assume there’ll be a multitude of different approaches taken, which I think is good. And the question will be, ‘what’s the most effective?'”

Source: Rabble

Conservative candidate on C-51: Civil liberties? “Folks, that’s not the country we live in”

What country do Canadians live in then?

At Sunday’s Calgary-Signal Hill all-candidates debate, Conservative candidate Ron Liepert responded to criticisms of the Conservatives’ controversial Bill C-51 by suggesting “civil liberties” and “freedom” are not the most pressing issues facing the country in light of “criminal activities.”

“I know there’s a whole group of people including a couple of the speakers here tonight who talk about civil liberties and about the freedom of having the right to pretty much choose to do what you like,” Liepert told voters.

“Folks, that’s not the country we live in.”

Liepert, a former Progressive Conservative Finance Minister in Alberta, added that C-51 is needed because criminals “had too damn many rights”:

“We live in a country where for too long those who were involved in criminal activities had too damn many rights and so what we’ve done with this particular bill is ensure that the police and authorities have the ability to pursue and prosecute where necessary and I’m fully in favour of Bill C-51.”

C-51 has previously been pitched as an anti-terrorist measure, not a measure to deal with “criminal activities” in general.

Statistics Canada’s latest data shows crime in Canada has been dropping for 20 years – so it’s not entirely clear what utility curbing civil liberties would serve given law and order appears to be improving even without draconian measures:

C-51 has been criticized as unconstitutional by a long list of legal experts, civil liberty groups, libertarians, gun owners, business leaders, a Conservative MP and even four former Progressive Conservative and Liberal Prime Ministers.

Last year, Liepert told CBC Radio that supporters of solar and wind energy are “extremists” who live in a “dream world.”

Source: Press Progress

Bill C-51 in Action: Peaceful Paddle Lands Site C Opponents on Terrorist Watch list

From Common Sense Canadian

The following letter was written by the Paddle for the Peace Planning Committee in response to an article in the Toronto Star which stated that events like the upcoming Paddle for the Peace (July 11th) were on terrorist watch lists.

Dear Editor,

According to the Toronto Star (March 30, 2015), the Federal government has included the Paddle for the Peace on a terrorist watch list.  And here we thought we weren’t getting any attention.  We are in good company, though.  Also on the list is a physicians’ group opposed to child poverty, Mother Theresa, and a senior’s quilting group from Bugtussle, Saskatchewan.  In an effort to save our government security agencies time, not to mention the Canadian taxpayers a great deal of money, we’d like to present a brief resume of some of the key players on the Paddle for the Peace planning committee.  It is a rogues gallery indeed.

Retired primary school teacher Ruth Ann Darnell is the Chair of the Peace Valley Environment Association.  She has been working to save the Peace Valley from Site C since the 1970s.  Back then, Ruth Ann’s subversive activities were hampered by the fact the Internet was decades away from being created.  After a long day of teaching five year olds to read, she just never had the time or energy to trudge down to the Fort St. John library to research DIY incendiary devices.

After teaching her sixteen year old son to drive, local children’s clothing retailer Danielle Yeoman knew she was one of those rare talents every ISIS recruiting officer dreams of discovering.  She desired to really put her nerves of steel to the test.  But her terrorist career was over before it was started when she learned those torso belts packed with explosives add at least six inches to your waistline.  I mean really, there are limits to what a girl will do to support a violent fanatical cause.

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Conservatives Pushing to Criminalize Israeli Boycott

From People’s Voice

The Harper government is signalling its intent to crack down against the movement for Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel. But it remains to be seen whether criminal penalties will be imposed against BDS activists before the October 19 federal election.

This controversy has been building up for several years, as the Conservatives make Canada the most vocal international supporter for Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands. PM Harper and his cabinet ministers have become increasingly shrill in their backing for the policies of the Netanyahu government. Meanwhile, the rest of the world is moving in the opposite direction, in support of full Palestinian statehood, and recognizing that Israel’s racist policies resemble the apartheid system created by the minority white South African regime which held power until 1993. Last month, 16 European foreign ministers denounced the “expansion of Israeli illegal settlements in the Occupied Territories,” demanding that any imported goods originating in the settlements be distinctly labelled.

Here in Canada, there is rising support for the Palestinian cause, particularly in the wake of Israel’s bloody military assaults against Gaza, the growth of settler communities on expropriated Palestinian areas, and the “apartheid wall” which slices the shrinking Palestinian areas of the West Bank into ever tinier, unsustainable chunks.

The Harper Tories have condemned public opposition to these racist policies as “hate speech.” The Conservatives and their allies (and many leading Liberals and NDPers) have spoken out strongly against campus events to mark the annual Anti-Israeli Apartheid week, and in particular against the BDS campaign which was begun in 2006 at the request of Palestinian non-governmental organizations.

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