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NWT chapter expresses concerns about C-51 and C-22 ‘national security’ legislation

Liberal MP Sean Casey

The Council of Canadians Northwest Territories chapter made a presentation on C-51 and C-22 at a recent town hall meeting in Yellowknife.

Chapter activist Craig Yeo tells us, “I attended the ‘National Security Framework Consultation Town Hall’ hosted by Sean Casey, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. It was a moderated tables format, but there were few enough people that folks just gave remarks. Main points were accountability, oversight, the definitions of security and terrorism and the control of data.”

The Canadian Press explains, “In last year’s election campaign, the Liberals promised to repeal ‘problematic elements’ of omnibus security legislation, known as C-51. The government has requested public feedback on issues ranging from sharing information and preventing attacks to conducting surveillance and ensuring intelligence agencies are accountable.” Public Safety Canada and the Department of Justice conducted an online consultation between September 8 and December 15. Town hall meetings were held in Yellowknife, Halifax, Markham, Vancouver and Winnipeg.

Bill C-22, an Act to create an oversight committee, is currently working its way through Parliament.

In his presentation, Yeo says, “Bill C-51 has been justly condemned for giving Canada’s government and security establishment a vastly increased ability to violate charter rights and domestic privacy. Intelligence and security agencies in Canada already have a history of abusing their powers. Under their new expanded powers, this abuse can only become worse. We can take no comfort in the recently reported remarks of the Prime Minister that Canadians may be less concerned with the powers created under Bill C-51 because they trust his government more than they trusted the previous government.”

He adds, “C-51 granted Canada’s security and policing institutions with new, unprecedented powers, money and resources, while failing to provide commensurate powers, money and resources to existing and newly envisioned mechanisms designed ostensibly to hold those spies and cops accountable.”

Yeo then notes, “Regarding Bill C-22 which creates a National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians with the capacity to monitor classified security and intelligence activities and report findings to the prime minister, this is a positive move. This new accountability mechanism is crucial because, up to now, there has been no commensurate accountability accompanying the broad state powers introduced by Bill C-51. However, there are troubling features to this bill. The government’s power to halt a Committee investigation, or refuse to provide information, when it is deemed ‘injurious to national security’ is unacceptable. It is particularly bad that these decisions are final, and are not subject to judicial review or any other dispute resolution process. The prime minister should not have power to redact Committee reports (without any evidence that redactions were made). And, it should be the Committee members themselves — not the prime minister — who choose the Committee chair.”

Yeo concludes, “Only vigorous parliamentary and extra-parliamentary oversight, including the authority to investigate and recommend sanctions against instances of wrong-doing, will provide Canadians with confidence that protection of their rights is being overseen and enforced. Transparency is essential.”

Since the election of the Liberal government in October 2015, numerous Council of Canadians chapters – including the Kent County, London, Guelph, Regina and South Niagara chapters – have also called for C-51 to be repealed.

A Government of Canada website says, “The information gathered from this public consultation is now being compiled. A report on the findings is being developed and will be released to the public in 2017.”