BILL C-51: Amendments 'scarier' than original bill?

BILL C-51: Amendments 'scarier' than original bill?

Postby Oscar » Thu Apr 02, 2015 10:12 am

Will Changes to C-51 Give Spy Agency Power to Detain? (CARTOON)

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Amendments may be 'scarier' than original bill.

By Reg Whitaker, April 2, 2015,

Bill C-51, the Harper government's proposed anti-terrorism law, was considered in clause-by-clause detail at the House of Commons Public Safety Committee on Tuesday. With a great deal of advance fanfare, the government trumpeted that it would introduce amendments, supposedly showing that it had listened to critics. There were four government amendments, all accepted; all opposition amendments were rejected.

Do the government amendments change anything? Two of the changes eliminated loose phrases that were probably always throwaway lines. Another removes "lawful" from "advocacy, protest and dissent." This is an improvement, but is unlikely to mean a great deal in practice.

However, it was the fourth amendment that had observers scratching their heads. The section of the bill that would confer open-ended powers on the Canadian Security Intelligence Service to "reduce" terrorist threats will now bear a new clause: "For greater certainty, nothing in subsection (1) confers on the Service [CSIS] any law enforcement power." Government spokespersons helpfully explained that this meant CSIS could not "arrest" anyone.

This is the proverbial solution in search of a problem. Of course CSIS can't arrest anyone. Never could. CSIS is a security intelligence agency tasked with collecting and assessing information on threats to the security of Canada. At least it was until Bill C-51, which will confer so-called "kinetic" powers on CSIS to take actions in the real world, disruptive actions that could even break the law and violate Charter rights -- with prior judicial authorization. But that's all right, the government was saying, because CSIS can't "enforce the law" by "arresting" anyone. This is the old bait and switch trick. Critics worry that CSIS could break the law. The government says no problem: CSIS can't enforce the law.

Allow CSIS to detain?

In adding this superfluous clarification could the government have had something else in mind? Might it be seeking to divert critics from another potential controversy hidden in Bill C-51? In stressing that CSIS can't arrest people, might it be trying to deflect attention from a brand new capacity of CSIS to detain people?

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More alarming is another possibility lying hidden in plain sight in Bill C-51.

The bill also gives new and greater powers to CSIS: "If there are reasonable grounds to believe that a particular activity constitutes a threat to the security of Canada, the Service may take measures, within or outside Canada, to reduce the threat." Just what such "measures" might include is not specified. In pursuing such measures within Canada, CSIS is empowered to break Canadian laws and violate Charter rights of Canadians if they have obtained a warrant (the so-called "disruption" warrant) from a federal judge. So long as they do not murder, torture or "violate the sexual integrity" of an individual, or "wilfully... obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice," CSIS disruption measures would appear to be open-ended.

Why should snatching persons off the street and detaining them in secret under conditions controlled entirely by CSIS not fit under its authorized "measures?" After all, every Canadian citizen's rights under the Charter of Rights, sections 9 and 10 (the right not be arbitrarily detained, and if detained to be represented by counsel and to be protected by habeas corpus) can be overridden by CSIS -- assuming of course that CSIS can persuade a judge to warrant its actions in advance. Since warrants applications are heard and executed in secret, no third parties need ever be the wiser.

Outsource intelligence gathering


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