Forget the election debate over budget deficits and tolerance of the veil. We have another deficit in Canada and it is neither looming nor veiled. We're in the midst of an incrementally created democratic deficit that after nine years of accumulated budget cuts, abuse of power, and muzzling diverse voices has now arguably put at risk our democracy's health and vigour.
Many Canadians are asking whether anything can be done to rein in the almost unimaginable surveillance powers revealed by Edward Snowden. From our research and consultation with privacy experts, there are a number of practical steps that can be taken to put a stop to surveillance abuses and better protect the privacy of Canadians.
The rushed passage of Bill C-51 through Parliament, the furthest-reaching national security reforms in Canada since 2001, continues. It is soon to be passed by the House of Commons and then head off to the Senate. And all signs are that the government intends to push it through the Senate as quickly as possible, with an eye to the Bill becoming law before the summer Parliamentary break. At its heart Bill C-51 grounds itself in the flawed notion that human rights have to give way when national security is on the line.
Small businesses across Canada are speaking up to warn the government about the economic damage that its "secret police" Bill C-51 will inflict on our economy. If Bill C-51 is passed, it will change Canada's economic climate for the worse, notably by harming Canadian commerce, trade, and data security. This upsurge in opposition from small businesses couldn't be more timely: committee hearings on the Bill are continuing today in the Senate, while the House of Commons could hold its final vote in just days.
Even after the Conservative government buckled to pressure to amend the anti-terrors laws, Canadians can still be deemed too dangerous to travel by airline and won't be allowed to challenge the "evidence" against them. As lawyer and author Faisal Kutty puts it, Canadian Muslims can be considered "too guilty to fly, but too innocent to charge." Bill C-51 is a reckless attempt to win over an understandably fearful electorate under the pretense of fighting terrorism. Marginalizing the very Canadians who are on the front-lines of this struggle is worse than poor policy -- it's a threat to all of us.
Looking at Bill C-51, Ecojustice's primary concerns revolve around the proposed information-sharing regime and its implications for First Nations and environmentalists engaged in non-violent protests against fracking, pipelines, or other projects that pose serious risks to the environment and human health. Bill C-51 should be amended to exempt all forms of "advocacy, protest, dissent or artistic expression" so long as they do not endanger life. A peaceful Aboriginal blockade or environmental protest is not a national security threat.
Bill C-51 is an omnibus anti-terrorism bill that grants CSIS new information sharing powers and converts CSIS from a covert intelligence gathering organization to a covert enforcement agency. Ms. Soapbox is here to offer four simple suggestions to keep you out of trouble when Stephen Harper's majority government finally passes this monstrous piece of legislation.