The government is listening to Canadians. Now, that statement has a completely different meaning. The federal government is engaging in wide-ranging public consultations, seeking input from Canadians about how to amend our national security framework and Bill C-51 (the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015). They have released a National Security Green Paper and Background Document for comment, posted a series of online questions covering ten focus areas, and committed to hosting town halls across the country.
We need you to tell the government exactly what you think
needs to be changed with this law to protect your rights.
You’ve got till December 1st to make an online submission to the consultation.
Here’s why you should do it:
Bill C-51 undermines your rights and freedoms everyday.
With the increased powers granted under Bill C-51, your confidential information and interactions with the government are shared more easily and between more departments, meaning your private information is no longer private. Private information from one department (including health, passport or tax information) could be shared with 16 other departments, without your consent.
Your online posts could be forcibly censored by your ISP provider, and your right to remain anonymous online violated if you share content that a judge deems ‘terrorist propaganda,’ even if you condemn the material in question. Protesting could put you under government surveillance, and customs officers have greater powers to search and seize your belongings without oversight, including computer and phone searches.
We’ll be living with the impacts for decades.
Unjust laws have a nasty habit of sticking around, and may not be reevaluated for a long time. National security laws and intelligence gathering procedures can subvert and undermine freedom of expression and privacy rights to an enormous extent, and the results of this consultation will shape crucial aspects of the free expression landscape far into the future.
For example, the War Measures Act of 1914 allowed for "censorship and the control and suppression of publications, writings, maps, plans, photographs, communications and means of communication," and enabled human rights violations. Despite being a direct response to World War I, the Act wasn't repealed until 1988, 74 years after the war came to a close. During the decades before its repeal, the rights violations were able to continue, like the internment of Japanese-Canadians during World War II. We have a chance to prevent such violations now by fundamentally changing the national security paradigm through this consultation.
The consultations are long overdue.
Amending Bill C-51 was part of the Liberal election platform last year, and Canadians have been standing up against the bill since it was first introduced nearly two years ago. Despite announcing in their platform that they would hold public consultations, it took nearly a year before any forward movement on that front. Since June 2015, the bill has been in law and security agencies have been able to infringe on your rights without adequate oversight, while Canadians have been waiting for the promised chance to make their concerns heard. We can't waste anymore time while our rights are stripped.
Intelligence agencies are already lobbying against your rights.
The public consultations just began, but intelligence agencies and national security officials have been lobbying behind the scenes since the election last fall. The government has spent the past year listening to law enforcement officials, surveillance lobbyists and spooks telling them that they desperately need these powers, at the expense of your privacy rights. As Micheal Vonn of the BC Civil Liberties Association says, the government’s green paper "reads like it was drafted by a public relations firm tasked with selling the current state of extraordinary, unaccountable powers and if anything, laying the groundwork for extending those even further." We can’t let this be a one-sided conversation. We may not have their access or economic clout, but we have millions of voices. The government needs to hear from you.
This is a never-before-seen opportunity.
The scope and nature of this consultation is unprecedented. The government has invited comment not just on Bill C-51 (the Anti Terrorism Act, 2015) but on the entirety of the national security framework in Canada. Most of the attention on national security in the past 18 months have been focused on the reckless, ineffective Bill C-51, but the full security and surveillance framework we've had for years before Bill C-51 was already far from ideal. This is also the first time that the government has consulted on national security policy, an area usually kept secret from public scrutiny and input. We may not get another shot like this for decades.
It’s easy to contribute.
CJFE, along with our partners, are committed to giving you the information you need to take part. Throughout the consultation, we’ll continue sharing articles to keep you informed on the key issues. We'll look at the national security legacy of former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, the "being reckless" clause that could imprison you for five years, the government’s forthcoming “countering violent extremism” strategy, lessons from the Air India and Maher Arar commissions, the harms of mass surveillance, and more.
More on Bill C-51 from CJFE:
Learn more and stay tuned for our ongoing article series on national security and an updated list of in-person consultations with MPs across Canada!
- Check out the Bill C-51 campaign page
- Sign up for CJFE's mailing list
- See and contribute to live annotations of the Green Paper
- A Different Shade of Green Paper: a BC Civil Liberties Association series that untangles some of the complexities of the national security debate.
- National Security Articles: a Canadian Civil Liberties Association series on national security and Bill C-51 topics, from surveillance and no-fly lists to CSIS powers and data retention.
- Save Our Security: OpenMedia has an easy online tool to send a quick message to Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale calling on the government to repeal Bill C-51 and institute strong privacy protections.