Last week I had a twitter conversation with Liberal MP Wayne Easter who sat in the parliamentary committee on the new anti-terror Bill C51. Most Liberal MPs took to their online websites to defend their vote on Bill C-51 days after the Liberals stood up in the house of commons and voted for the bill. Most have followed party lines in their responses and what has emerged is what the Liberals plan on running on regarding the anti-terror bill during the election.
Take for instance Liberal MP Caroline Bennett’s explanation (which is starkly similar to most Liberal MP’s responses) as to why she voted for C-51:
I voted in favour of Bill C-51 because it contains significant measures that will keep Canadians safe. The Liberal Party of Canada welcomes the measures that (1) lower the threshold for preventative arrests, (2) expand the no-fly list, and (3) allow for greater and more coordinated information sharing between government departments and agencies involved in security matters.
In legal terms bill C-51 lowers the legal threshold for preventative arrests from what most of us are familiar to as “Reasonable grounds to believe.” to “Reasonable grounds to suspect.” In legalese this means that virtually no evidence is needed other than an accusation to obtain arrest warrants under C-51 and detain individuals for 7 days on an accusation of terror. We’re back to the good ol’ days of witch hunting. The Liberal Party voted (according to Bennett) to keep this part in the bill. This would likely be challenged and struck down by the courts.
Expanding no-fly lists, and greater more co-ordination of information sharing between government departments and agencies involved with security matters has already been put into question by not just the privacy commissioner. In 2013 an Ontario women was denied entry into the US because she had a bout of depression and was hospitalized years before. The police shared this information with US boarder security agencies. The women was told she had to get re-evaluated by a US psychiatrist before she would be allowed to cross the border. What exactly does depression have to do with terrorism? Terrorism is about radical ideology often religious in nature!
Another position within the Liberal Party has been the support of these so called “Sunset Clauses”. This is a bit problematic. The Charter does allow in certain circumstances the temporary suspension of Charter rights if it’s warranted and there’s enough evidence to prove Government needs to temporarily suspend Charter rights. I put the question to MP Wayne Easter on twitter, who insisted that the Liberal position would be Charter compliant. Sunset Clauses would likely be up for a Charter challenge, since in 2013/2014 US Congressional hearings and Obama’s own Presidential panel examining the Bill C-51 type approach to mass surveillance dragnets, didn’t produce one credible instance where terror attacks were prevented due to these new powers. In fact Obama’s own appointed panel on the subject concluded that these powers were likely not constitutional. I challenged Easter to produce at least one expert that supports the Liberal’s position on C-51, to which I didn’t receive a reply.
One expert however has chimed in on the debate regarding the liberal platform on C-51. Internet Law Expert Micheal Geist wrote today stating:
“The decision to support the bill was surely the result of a political calculation based on the fear of being labeled as weak on security. Indeed, Trudeau acknowledged precisely that a month later, telling students at UBC that the government was hoping the opposition would reject the bill so that it could “bash people on security.” Trudeau added that “this conversation might be different if we weren’t months from an election campaign, but we are.”
I think the problem goes much deeper than appearing weak and being attacked by political opponents. There’s no logic in that. You can’t be in politics if you are afraid of your political opponents. What kind of leader does that, or will that make you?
While I agree that politics are being played on this bill by all sides, MP Wayne Easter who sat in the committee has explicitly stated that the reasoning behind the support of the bill is because the Liberals were in power during 9/11. Liberals brought in sunset clauses back then to temporary suspend charter rights, and should be trusted with their support of C-51 because they have been in government and have that experience. These were the lines Easter used over, and over again in political talk shows.
Geist in his most recent post also took aim at the information sharing clauses in the bill:
Second, the Liberal position on Bill C-51 has consistently cited the information sharing provisions in the bill as a reason to support it. Yet the information sharing provisions are among the most problematic aspects of the bill drawing criticism from the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and numerous experts. In supporting those provisions, the Liberals are not only siding with the government, but they are also rejecting the analysis of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada.
I grew up in a law enforcement family. My step father was a Staff Sargent with York-Regional police. I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for those who wear the uniform in law enforcement, military, and intelligence services. I’ve heard from my step father some pretty interesting and horrifying stories on what our law enforcement has to deal with on a day to day basis. My step father suffered from PTSD which eventually killed him. It’s a tough job and not suited for everyone.
Out of the negative there is light. Light that is often ignored by those in law enforcement due to what they have to deal with on a day to day basis. The community and civilians are of up most important to law enforcement when they are investigating crimes, or potential crimes. Without community or civilian help, many crimes would either be thrown out of court, or not reported. What bill c-51 does is make us more fearful of law enforcement and intelligence agencies, thus a lot less likely to help law enforcement and intel agencies as a collective society. Bill C-51 will make it harder, not easier on law enforcement to catch and investigate the bad guys.
Not too many people know the history behind ISIL, and how it was born. It was born mainly through the Arab spring, and the fight for democracy starting in Iraq, through Egypt, and the Middle East. A large portion of that fight for democracy was ignored, brutally put down by dictators, anger ensued, rebellions rose and religious radicalized groups took advantage. You can’t beat radical religious ideology with bombs, or dragnet surveillance. It has to be at the ground level with the full and complete support of the communities affected, none of which bill C-51 addresses.
We have over 2000 years of lessons on this. Our Forefathers put in democratic constitutions to ensure we don’t fall back on those lessons. Civil rights are not just a “thing”. We often take them for granted. Civil rights are meant to ensure that democracy survives. The moment we take away even one of those rights in the name of fighting adversaries who seek to damage them; is the moment when we’ve already lost the war on terror.
If in fact the Liberal support and platform on C-51 is due to looking weak to their political adversaries, than the Liberal party has a hell of a lot more problems than eroding support. Their entire party ideology needs to be fully and completely questioned.