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.
My name is Faisal Kutty. I am a lawyer, law professor, public speaker and writer. I write in response to testimony to your distinguished Committee on February 23, 2015 by a fear monger well-versed in McCarthyism, Mr. Marc Lebuis.In my opinion, Mr. Lebuis and Pointe de Bascule hold anti-Muslim, anti-Islam views. Often unable to identify real threats, they insulting law-abiding Canadians through innuendo and mischaracterization of tenuous or even non-existent links and associations.
Given the parliamentary majority that the Harper government currently enjoys, official effective opposition to its typically extreme legislative proposal lies squarely in the hands of the Supreme Court. Thomas Mulcair and Justin Trudeau's respective decisions to stand aside the bill as it makes its way in the House of Commons, preferring instead to pitch oversight-related amendments as part of their prospective federal electoral platforms, reinforces this reality.
There are a number of concrete steps the government should take to address the gap in national security accountability. Chief among those are improving the integrity of the application process for national security warrants, re-establishing the Office of the Inspector General of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, and expanding the Security Intelligence Review Committee's (SIRC) size, capabilities and mandate.
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.
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.
On January 30, a reporter asked Harper how newly-introduced anti-terror legislation will differentiate between somebody who is "radicalized" and "a teen who's just messing around in the basement." Harper answered by saying promoting terrorism is a serious offence no matter "what the age of the person is, or whether they're in a basement, or whether they're in a mosque or somewhere else." Harper's response to this question associates hundreds of mosques across the country with the promotion of terrorism and violence and is misguided for multiple reasons.
One promising means of addressing the gap in national security review would be to vest Parliament with some of that responsibility. Canada holds the shameful distinction of being the only country among the Five Eyes, the international intelligence partnership that includes the U.K. and U.S., without some form of intelligence review by its legislative body. This needs to change. But that alone won't fix everything. The U.S. has legislative oversight mechanisms in place and yet couldn't avoid scandals around torture.