Unfortunately, when it comes to CSIS, Canadians can expect very little transparency, a cause for additional concern when you recall Harper eliminated the position of the CSIS watchdog in 2012. The only overview of CSIS is handled by the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC), a body comprised of part-time appointees with limited resources that assess CSIS operations after-the-fact.
Convicting and incarcerating those who return to Canada from fighting with extremist groups overseas alone is not enough. Radicalization spreads, particularly in prison, where many individuals feel wronged by the system and society more generally. Once those prisoners return to civilian life they take with them their twisted and radicalized beliefs and spread them in the communities where they live. Many of Canada's allies have their own de-radicalization programs in place for those who return home after joining terrorist organizations abroad.
Huge numbers of Canadians, including key Ottawa decision-makers, are pushing back hard against the government's Bill C-51, which proposes unprecedented new powers for Canada's security agencies. The bill effectively turns CSIS into a secret police force and would place every Canadian under a government microscope.
The Harper government wants to hide all of its secrets. A Canadian Press reported noticed a troubling policy detail buried in the feds' legislative bulletin that would dramatically expand the number of current and former federal government employees under a lifetime gag order, potentially curbing the right to free expression of thousands of Canadians.
The arrest by the RCMP of two individuals who were allegedly planning out a terrorist attack on a VIA Rail train will only heighten our level of anxiety as the scare hits closer to home. Reintroducing these provisions seems nothing more than an attempt by the Conservative government to further prove its 'tough on terror' credentials. But when our laws appear to be working -- results of brave and successful law enforcement operations -- attempting to play on our fears by using emotion over reason does not do justice to the seriousness this discussion this requires.
It's good that the Ministry of Public Safety has decided to introduce amendments to the existing Anti-Terrorism Act of Canada. Even so, such measures may engender considerable controversy under Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms.