Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Another Leisurely Look at the C-51 Hearings

Look, I know that the bill passed. Just like I know nobody is reading this! But I'm finding this an informative, entertaining diversion. So I'ze gonna keep on doin' it.

Like, I figured out why harpercon stooge (Payne?) "shared his time" with fellow harpercon stooge Roxanne James. It's because if he, himself had monologued for his entire alloted time, someone would have pointed it out. So they divided it up into two self-serving monopolizations of the Committee's time and avoided having to actually debate with the adults with less of a fuss.

What am I going to read today?

    Okay, colleagues, we will resume and welcome our three witnesses for the second hour.

    We have with us Paul Champ, counsel from the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group. As an individual, we have Barry Cooper, professor of political science, University of Calgary. And we have, from the Assembly of First Nations, National Chief Perry Bellegarde.
    Welcome all.
    Gentlemen, we are running tight on time. I recognize that we cannot ask you to change your opening remarks. That would not necessarily be fair, given that you haven't been told. In the future this committee could perhaps suggest reducing the length of opening remarks, but at this particular point, all I would ask is your courtesy in trying to make them as brief as possible.
    As the chair has mentioned, the round of questioning for the first round will be split accordingly.
    We will start off with Mr. Champ. You have the floor, sir, for up to 10 minutes, but preferably significantly shorter.

Okay. I guess I'll limit it to Mr. Champ today. 
    I want to thank you, Mr. Chair, Mr. Clerk, and honourable committee members, for the privilege of this invitation.
    I'm appearing on behalf of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group, which is a pan-Canadian coalition of over 40 NGOs, faith groups, and trade unions. It's been involved in national security and civil liberties issues since 2002. Personally I'm a human rights lawyer and I've been involved in many national security cases in which civil liberties and human rights have been violated, so I have quite a bit of background in this area.
    I'm going to touch on three issues, three bells. I'm going to speak to the information sharing bill; the no-fly regime; and the expanded powers for CSIS, that is, the powers that will allow the secret authorization for CSIS to violate fundamental human rights of Canadians.
Oh but Mr. Champ! The harpercons only want to violate the fundamental rights of a limited number of Canadians! (Islamic terrorists. Muslims. Brown people who look at them funny. Environmentalists. First Nations peoples. Civil rights activists. Trade union activists. etc., etc.,)
    We'll also provide a written brief in which we go into more detail on these points we're making, obviously with the footnotes and references, which are always great to have. I'm just going to try to hit the high points for you this morning.
    First, with regard to the security of Canada information sharing act, from our perspective there are two novel features. The first is the expanded definition of the security of Canada. This is a new definition that is unprecedented in our legislation. What we have right now for the security of Canada is in section 2 of the CSIS Act, and that is then incorporated into about 10 other statutes. In Canada we refer back to the definition in the CSIS Act, and what has been truly surprising for many critics looking at this bill is trying to understand why the definition of the security of Canada has been expanded. If the point is to capture terrorism, it is captured by the CSIS Act's definition. This bill has nine enumerated activities, and terrorism is only one of those. So if the true target of the bill is terrorism, why are we expanding the definition? With great respect, I heard the minister's testimony the other day when he said it's not meant to capture advocacy and dissent. If that's the case, then why change the definition? The definition of threats to the security of Canada as it appears in the CSIS Act was more than adequate and included things like serious acts of violence, attempts to violently overthrow the government, and espionage. That has been the definition in Canadian law for over 30 years, so why change it now?
Good fucking question.
    The second point we have with regard to the security of Canada act is that it is dropping the walls around privacy across government, and it gives a mandate to government officials in all of these departments to basically spy on Canadians. If you look at clause 5 of this bill, it is asking all government departments to act and to try to prevent, detect, identify, and disrupt activities. These are going to be government officials who don't have experience in law enforcement, or security intelligence. What does a tax auditor know about disrupting terrorism?
Obviously they won't do it themselves. They'll just be free to share your tax information with CSIS and the RCMP. For whatever reason. What could go wrong? Besides, there'll probably be reviews and audits n' shit, wherein all the tens of thousands of instances of "information sharing" will be looked into by somebody like the Privacy Commissioner who won't ever be stymied with budget cuts or refusals of cooperation and who won't ever be replaced if they get too bothersome to the government.
That's what this bill is doing. It's turning all government employees into spies, and it's going to facilitate the creation of secret files on Canadians because someone feels that a person's lifestyle or opinions or travels are suspicious. There are harms and risks associated with information sharing. Information sharing is such a benign phrase, and I can tell you when I first encountered it as a lawyer I thought what's the big deal? I have encountered many cases and have acted on behalf of individuals whose lives have been devastated because of improper and erroneous information sharing by Canadian government officials. It can have devastating consequences. We've had two public inquiries in the last ten years in Canada dealing with four Canadians who were brutally tortured by foreign officials based on erroneous information sharing by Canadian officials. That's not my opinion; those are findings by two public inquiries paid for by Canadians.
It's about time somebody remembered to mention those guys!
    Just last week, committee members, I settled a case with the Government of Canada on behalf of an Algerian refugee and aerospace engineer who spent five years wrongfully imprisoned in the United States and seriously abused as a 9/11 suspect because of the sharing of erroneous information by Canadian government officials. Last week the Canadian Government finally righted that wrong and settled with my client. Those are the kinds of consequences that are associated with information sharing. When you don't have proper controls and regulation over information sharing, it can have devastating consequences on individuals. The O'Connor inquiry involving Maher Arar had excellent recommendations with regard to that and said that we have to have controls and filters to ensure that information is relevant and reliable before it is shared. We don't have those safeguards in this bill.
Yeah. Because harper pointedly doesn't want those restrictions on his ability to torture anyone he wants to.

Ahem. Let's continue ...
    The secure air travel act is the no-fly regime. The client that I act for, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring group, has been one of the most active groups in studying the no-fly list since it was first introduced in Canada in 2007. We know that in 2007 there were over 2,000 Canadians on the Canadian no-fly list that was announced by the government. Ever since, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring group has been asking the government and Transport Canada repeatedly how many Canadians are on that list, just the number. The government has repeatedly refused to provide that number, and I think if this committee is going to seriously consider this bill you should be asking government officials to at least tell you how many people are on that list right now. How many Canadians' rights are being put at risk because of this bill and why are they refusing to tell Canadians? That's an answer that you need.
    What I can tell you about the existing regime is that in 2007 all privacy commissioners in Canada, not just the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, issued a joint resolution saying that the current passenger protect no-fly regime was too opaque and violated the privacy rights of Canadians.
    In 2008 the Privacy Commissioner of Canada issued a report that Transport Canada had provided "no evidence demonstrating the effectiveness of no-fly lists despite her repeated requests for such information”. Those comments are more valid today than ever. This regime has been in place for eight years and we have no information about its effectiveness, about how many people are implicated, and why we need to expand it today.
    The problem with the no-fly regime as it exists, and as it will be in this Secure Air Travel Act, is that there is no due process protections whatsoever. You don't get any notice when you are put on the list. Once you do find out, you can't challenge the evidence. It's completely secret and you don't have the right to see or challenge the evidence.
    This regime as it currently stands was already found in 2008 by the Office of Reconsideration, a review body this government created to review listing regimes. That body decided and ruled in 2008 that it violates section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Transport Canada has ignored that finding, and as of yet no Canadian court has considered it. I can tell you, as a constitutional lawyer, I'm quite confident it will be struck down. I can tell you that last year in 2014 the U.S. courts found that the U.S. no-fly regime violated the 5th amendment of their constitution, which is the equivalent of our section 7 of the charter. Why are we doubling down now and enhancing and expanding this unconstitutional power that violates Canadians' rights?

Well, I think I'll look for the brief and see if I can get some links to these claims, ... hold on:  First off, here's a handy list. This is theirs. Here's something from the Privacy Commissioner about no-fly lists.

    The final issue is the CSIS Act, and the extraordinary expansion in the bill of CSIS' powers, allowing our spies to violate the fundamental human rights of Canadians. That's what it allows. It allows CSIS agents to violate charter rights or disrupt people's lives all in secret. The big thing about this part of the bill is that it's blurring the line fundamentally between law enforcement and security intelligence. It overrides the primary reason why CSIS was created in the first place. The agents in CSIS used to be part of the RCMP, and they were separated from the RCMP precisely for this reason, so that we would keep operational activities separate from security intelligence activities, because the overlap can endanger the civil liberties of Canadians. Why are we rolling back the clock? Why are we completely throwing out the very reason CSIS was created in the first place?
    These powers have no real limits. The only limits in the act are that you can't cause death, you can't cause bodily harm, and you can't violate someone's sexual integrity. Everything else short of that is up to the imagination of CSIS agents. It could include detention. It could include secret sites of detention, the black sites the CIA had. That's technically authorized by this act. If we don't want to allow that, put detention in the bill. If it's not meant to allow that, put detention in the bill.
    The final thing is that it's going to allow warrants—and Mr. Atkey testified before about how it creates problems with judicial independence. Here's one big thing I'll tell you that you may not hear from other witnesses: It relies on the candour and good faith of CSIS agents to put forth the proper information to those judges, because those warrant hearings are completely in secret. The judgements will be in secret, and we won't know.
    Mr. Champ, I'm sorry, you've over time, sir.
    Please respect the time commitments of the committee here. You're well over time now, and the chair's been extremely lenient.
    We will now go to Mr. Cooper, please.

Point of order Mr. Chairman! Could we, perhaps, dispense with the self-serving, dishonest monologues from your fellow harpercon hacks? That would allow more time for vital testimony and actual questioning, as opposed to the stupid bullshit you asswipes indulge in. No? Oh well. At least I tried.

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