Harper's Bill C-51 to Stifle Political Discourse and Equates Dissent to Terrorism

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Canadian First Nation anti-fracking protest, October 2014. Courtesy: Matt Thor

By Ann-Marie de Veer
Saturday 7 February 2015

On Friday 30 January 2015 the Harper regime of Canada introduced Bill C-51 to the Canuck parliament: a Bill that includes a new swathe of anti-terrorism legislation clearly aimed at stifling the social, environmental and indigenous justice movements in the country from exercising their political right to dissent.

Bill C-51, akin to legislation introduced by two other Western authoritarian despots, Cameron in the UK and Obama in the US, is not intended to address the issues of a small minority of the public who have become irrevocably disenfranchised and irretrievably disaffected by Harper's confrontational foreign policy but to expand the role of the Communications Security Establishment (CSE, formerly CSEC) and, in particular, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) to subvert the public's right to political discourse, an essential component for a liberal democracy to function.

One of the key issues that the Bill seeks to implement is the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act: an invasive and draconian data sharing regime involving a disparate array of government institutions who are planning to share the private and personal information of Canadian citizens on the whim of departmental officials. The idea that an individual can be flagged up as a person of interest, on unsubstantiated and unproven allegations, i.e. not tested in a court of law, that could not only have a severe effect upon the person concerned but on all those who they come into contact, or interact with, is a gross violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

As the proposed Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act (CSISA) states:

Page 3, Para. 2. The following definitions apply in this Act.
"activity that undermines the security of Canada" means any activity, including any of the following activities, if it undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada or the lives or the security of the people of Canada:
(a) 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:

Of course, it is the caveats of public safety and the administration of justice that will be used as an excuse for even greater levels of surveillance, control and manipulation of the people. The fact that law enforcement and the security services have already used these caveats to selectively and subjectively apply measures that have deprived citizens of their democratic and political rights is common knowledge. The people's right to dissent, to peacefully demonstrate and to hold the current regime to account for their illegal activities is about to be further eroded.

Clearly, the duplicity of the Harper regime, in couching a Bill that seeks to expound the rights of the people; as detailed in Item 42. Page 49 of the CSISA:

Para. 12.1 (3) The Service shall not take measures to reduce a threat to the security of Canada if those measures will contravene a right or freedom guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or will be contrary to other Canadian law, unless the Service is authorized to take them by a warrant issued under section 21.1

when, in reality, their intention is completely contrary; Item 44. Page 50 of the CSISA sets out how these rights can be arbitrarily withdrawn by a judge who can issue a warant based on the subjective assessment and selective illegal interpretation of the law that authorises CSE and/or CSIS to:

Para. 21.1 (3) Despite any other law but subject to the Statistics Act, if the judge to whom an application under subsection (1) is made is satisfied of the matters referred to in paragraphs (2)(a) and (c) that are set out in the affidavit accompanying the application, the judge may issue a warrant authorizing the persons to whom it is directed to take the measures specified in it and, for that purpose,
(a) to enter any place or open or obtain access to any thing;
(b) to search for, remove or return, or examine, take extracts from or make copies of or record in any other manner the information, record, document or thing;
(c) to install, maintain or remove any thing; or
(d) to do any thing that is reasonably necessary to take those measures.

coupled with the audacity of a clause that excludes their behaviour from the Criminal Code; Item 48. Page 54 of the CSISA:

Para. 26. Part VI of the Criminal Code does not apply in relation to any interception of a communication under the authority of a warrant issued under section 21 or 21.1 or in relation to any communications so intercepted.

demonstrates that whatever rights and freedoms the people thought they had, they are about to be unilaterally withdrawn, including the right to challenge the subjective and arbitrary behaviour of the security services.

The fact that this situation conjures up a feeling of déjà vu is not without merit as a delve into the recent past proves that we have been here before and it is only going to get worse:

In 2006, Article 19, an organisation dedicated to the Global Campaign for Free Expression published a report on The Impact of UK Anti-Terror Laws on Freedom of Expression and submitted it to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) Panel of Eminent Jurists on Terrorism, Counter Terrorism and Human Rights. The summary carried a serious warning even then:

ARTICLE 19 is increasingly concerned at the impact of the UK’s anti-terror laws and policies on the legitimate exercise of the right to freedom of expression. While we acknowledge that freedom of expression may be restricted in order to protect public order and national security – indeed, that the State has a duty to protect its people from terrorist threats – we are concerned at the broad reach of several of the measures that have recently been enacted. Recent years have seen the adoption of a vague and wide definition of “terrorism” and an increase in the use of anti-terror laws to stifle legitimate political and social protest. In addition, recent laws and policies outlaw not just acts of terrorism, or their direct incitement, but also the “indirect encouragement” or “other inducement” of terrorism, including its glorification. We are concerned that, together as well as individually, these vaguely phrased prohibitions criminalise the legitimate exercise of freedom of expression and have a real chilling effect on debate on matters of public interest.

Fast forward to February 2015: the systematic erosion of the freedom of association, freedom of expression and freedom to dissent continues unabated throughout the Western world. When the Harper regime enacts Bill C-51, as it surely will, it will not address the abominable and abhorrent behaviour of a few jihadists but is intent on subjugating the Canadian people so they dare not exercise their political and democratic rights.

The freedom to engage in political discourse and dissent by the people is now defined as terrorism.

If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in government to the utmost.