BCCLA: The amendments to Bill-C51 don’t change our core concerns about this reckless bill
None of the amendments to Bill C-51 begin to address the fundamental threat on basic rights and freedoms, experts say. Article by Carmen Cheung for BCCLA This week, the Senate’s Standing Committee on National Security and Defence continues its pre-study of Bill C-51, while an amended version of the Bill proceeds to third reading in the House of Commons. The House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (“SECU”) made just four amendments to the omnibus bill, despite hearing witness after witness express serious concerns about the Bill and its impact on basic rights and freedoms. We don’t think these amendments even begin to address the fundamental flaws in the Bill, and discuss why in our submissions to the Senate. These submissions also include our take on some of the comments made by government lawyers at the clause-by-clause review of the Bill at SECU – comments which deal with the scope of the new CSIS powers; accountability in cases where information sharing by government results in harm to individuals (as we saw with Maher Arar); and whether the Federal Court of Canada is being asked to authorize unconstitutional activities by CSIS agents under the proposed warrant regime.
Here’s why SECU’s amendments don’t change our core concerns about Bill C-51:
1. The amended version now explicitly excludes all “advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression” from the definition of “activity that undermines the security of Canada” in the proposed Security of Canada Information Sharing Act (“SCIS Act”). (This is a change from the previous exemption, which was limited only to “lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression.”) While this amendment is welcome, we remain concerned that the broad definition of security will continue to capture expressive activities – as we have said before, activities undermining the “security” of Canada under the proposed SCIS Act would include activities that relate to not just public safety, but to public life in general. Moreover, recent examples show that government already takes a very wide view as to what constitutes a threat to Canada’s security.