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.
No wonder Canadians don't know what the heck is going on!
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.
Get off the grid: Communicate by pencil and paper. Buy a manual typewriter. Stop posting snarky things about Harper on Facebook and Twitter. You don't want to be identified as a troublemaker and your life will become a nightmare if you're caught in a CSIS "disruption" operation (see below).
No more rallies, demonstrations, protests or sit-ins: Avoid any form of protest or civil disobedience, especially those organized by environmental or Aboriginal groups.
Why? Because unless you know for certain that the demo organizers got the municipal permits they need to congregate, wave signs or chain themselves to inanimate objects, the protest is not "lawful advocacy, protest or artistic expression" and as such is not immune from CSIS scrutiny (subject to Craig Forcese's comments below).
If you're hellbent on camping out with Occupy, waving a placard in the freezing cold outside the Legislature, staging a sit-in at your MP's constituency office, or going on a wildcat strike, be warned that that your information may be shared with up to 17 government agencies and "any person, for any purpose" (Putin?) if CSIS thinks such activity "undermines the security of Canada" because unlawful protests are not exempt from the information sharing provision.
Craig Forcese says CSIS's power to share information about protesters and disrupt their activities applies only to unlawful "foreign-influenced activities...that are detrimental to the interests of Canada and are clandestine or deceptive." Other analysts do not make this distinction.
In any event, Mr. Forcese's distinction offers little comfort given Harper's penchant for finding "foreign influencers" buried deep in the bosom of many Canadian charities and NGOs and the willingness of CSIS and the RCMP to undertake covert operations when the spirit moves them whether they have the legal power to do so or not. Play it safe. Avoid them all.
Or be prepared to have your private information held by 17 governmental agencies (including Revenue Canada and the Department of Health) zip from one department to another without your knowledge or consent. It's like the persecution of First Nations advocate Dr. Cindy Blackstock--only this time on steroids.
Don't be tarred by association: Cut all ties with activists like Greenpeace, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, the Assembly of First Nations and their ilk.
Joanna Kerr, executive director of Greenpeace Canada, was one of the first witnesses to appear before the Commons committee reviewing Bill C-51.
She describes her experience in 10 words: Are you now, or have you ever been, a terrorist?
The Greenpeace panel was not given an opportunity to present its concerns about Bill C-51 or make suggestions on how to prevent violations of constitutional and civil rights. Instead they were hectored by condescending Tory MPs who asked whether they were "fundamentally opposed to taking terrorists off the streets" and suggested that Greenpeace might be "a national security threat."
Given that the RCMP identified Canada's environment movement as "a growing and violent threat to Canada's security" and labelled pipeline opponents (and First Nations) as "violent anti-petroleum extremists" such outrageous allegations cannot be taken lightly.
Remember what happened to thousands of Americans who were denounced to the House Un-American Committee. They lost their reputations, their livelihoods and sometimes their lives. So keep your head down and your mouth shut. And for God's sake stop writing cheques to these groups and signing their petitions!
Watch for "threat disruption": No, it's not a disturbance in the Force, a glitch in the Matrix or even your idiotic service provider forgetting to throw a switch somewhere, it's CSIS exercising its power to "disrupt" the activities of someone it suspects of doing something it doesn't like.
Most people aren't terrorists, but the government is quick to label people "terrorists" even if they have no clear link to extremists. Our very own Justice Minister, Peter MacKay, suggested the two would-be shooters in the Halifax mall plot were the kind of people who were "susceptible to being motivated" by the Islamic State. Meaning what exactly ????
CSIS will be given the power to disrupt activities by any means (including breaching one's Charter rights) short of causing bodily harm, infringing sexual integrity or obstructing justice. In the McCarthy era, the FBI's disruption techniques included burglaries, illegal wire taps, planting forged documents, spreading rumours, triggering IRS audits and leaking false information to the press. These techniques are child's play compared to what CSIS can achieve in the clandestine world of 5 Eyes and PRISM.
Bill C-51 gives CSIS, a covert organization, enhanced information gathering and enforcement powers with no corresponding increase in measures to protect Canadians from violations of privacy or the abuse of their fundamental rights.
Consequently Canadians must take steps to protect themselves.
And if you follow these simple precautions terrorists will no longer "hate our freedoms" because we won't have any.
Mission Accomplished, Mr. Harper.
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