C-51– a hamfisted mess

Ah, our lovely federal government and its typically clumsy legislation, drafted perhaps with the good of the nation in mind, but invariably filled with enough ideological ballast and constitutional holes that it floats like the Titanic.

This month’s example is Bill C-51: Anti-terrorism Act, 2015An Act to enact the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act and the Secure Air Travel Act, to amend the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts. (Whew!)

According to many credible commentators, it’s a horrible affair that would go a long, long way toward creating a nationwide secret police with very little oversight and reporting more or less to the Prime Minister’s Office. If that’s not scary, i don’t know what is. A little background reading:

As always, i took to the keyboard to email my concerns to our elusive West Coast MP, Dr. James Lunney (a.k.a. The Invisible MP, due to his scarcity in our area).

Dear MP Lunney,

I am writing today to express my concerns about your party’s Bill C-51. I am particularly concerned about its lack of oversight provisions and its loose language around the definition of “terrorist.”

As you may have heard, I am not the only one with serious concerns. Many, many media commentators, constitutional and political experts, and ordinary citizens are decrying this bill, as presently worded. As just one of very many examples, here’s an article from the Globe and Mail, titled Five key questions remain as Ottawa presses ahead with anti-terrorism bill, asking some crucial questions that I would very much like clear answers to, before you proceed with this ill-conceived bill:

  • What is promoting terrorism “in general?”
  • How does a judge decide what illegal or unconstitutional acts they can authorize?
  • Why does the Anti-Terrorism Act expand powers that have nothing to do with terrorism?
  • What are “measures?”
  • Why no oversight?”

The lack of oversight provision is extremely anti-democratic, especially given that there’s already scanty oversight, and four of our “Five Eyes” allies have such provisions in their laws. I also take issue with the bill’s dangerously loose definitions of “terrorist.”

I think it is obvious and clear that terrorism must involve some clear (if deeply misguided) political or religious ideology AND a definite intent to violently hurt people. Political agenda AND violence — if both these are not present, you may have a deranged shooter, or a protester, but you don’t have a terrorist.

I am deeply concerned that your very loose language around “disrupting critical infrastructure” is designed to sweep up whoever you want it to sweep up that week.

This is not acceptable in a functioning democracy.

Let us be clear: the Conservative party may have a majority government, but it is a “majority” composed of just 39.6% of those who voted — which was only 61.4% of the electorate. Just 24% of the electorate is hardly a resounding mandate. Thus you do not automagically get to impose whatever agenda you (or your uncompromising leader) wishes, upon the people of Canada. You still need the social license!

The people who peacefully oppose a government (any government, not just yours) are not terrorists — they are the direct opposite. They are the best of citizens, letting you know that your plans are flawed and need to be recast so they gain social licence. Terrorist versus concerned citizen — there’s an important difference and it is time learned to tell the difference.

Please reword this bill so it includes parliamentary and judicial oversight, and reflects the true meaning of “terrorist” without compromising or criminalizing concerned citizens who have the best for Canada, its people, and the world, at heart.

Your constituent,
greg blanchette
[street address] Tofino BC V0R 2Z0

If you should wish to contact MP Lunney about this or anything else, try james.lunney@parl.gc.ca. A warning: he (or his office) rarely responds.

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