I recently wrote an article in support of Bill C-51, Investigative Powers for the 21st Century Act. In this article, I attempted to explain that C-51 is not an infringement of our civil liberties any more than the original Criminal Code.
Not everyone agreed with my argument, and to that end, a blogger known as Nigel Todman from a site calling themselves the North American Association of Independent Journalists, or NAAIJ, offered up a rebuttal to my arguments. In a manner consistent with my right to freedom of speech and association, I am directly responding to the concerns raised in Todman’s article.
I love our democracy. I love the fact that Todman and myself can freely engage in debate on a topic so controversial. I love the fact that Canadians are protected by a Constitution of Rights guaranteeing us the right to freedom of expression and association. And I love the fact that C-51 won’t change that.
Yours truly wrote, “[Bill C-51] attempts to streamline the sharing of information, intelligence and resources in a manner consistent with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the protection of privacy. The keyword is ‘consistent’. After this bill becomes law, citizens will still be protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
And I stand by those words. Todman argues, quote, “The big problem with this, Is that the very act of collecting the information to determine if it is ‘undermines the security of Canada’ is in and of itself a violation of the Charter.” End quote.
While that may be arguably true, a response of that nature misses the point I was attempting to explain. There are already numerous security agencies in Canada; agencies such as the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Security Agency. All security agencies gather information to determine whether or not a threat to Canadian security is apparent.
Bill C-51 is an attempt at streamlining the process of the collection and sharing of information in such a manner consistent with the rights and freedoms we currently enjoy. C-51 is an attempt at making sure the government’s left hand knows what the right hand is up to.
Think of it this way. Let’s say, hypothetically, that CSIS is investigating a credible threat made against our government or against a Canadian citizen or a group of Canadian citizens. And let us say that the RCMP is investigating that same threat. Would it not be prudent for CSIS and the RCMP to work together and share information to avoid duplicity and share resources to eliminate the threat? A streamlined approach to information and resource sharing would most certainly save the taxpayers some coin. Sending two agencies to investigate a single threat, operating independently is inefficient.
Todman cites section 8 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, “Everyone has the right to be secure against unreasonable search or seizure.” And Todman would be correct. However, whether or not the existing intelligence and security agencies are an infringement on our civil liberties is irrelevant in regards to C-51. CSIS, RCMP & the CBSA already collect information and Bill C-51 merely attempts to make the system of data sharing more efficient.
Legitimate, peaceful protesters are not the target of a modern approach to Canadian security. And as I tried to articulate in my article, C-51 will not take away your right to carry a sign and protest in front of a government office.
Todman cites missing and murdered aboriginal women and those who protest on their behalf as being targets of this bill and to that end, protesters being labelled terrorists. This in and of itself is not entirely accurate. Singing songs and carrying sings is not what makes a protester a terrorist. Illegal occupations of rail lines, or bullying and intimidation such as what occurred in Caledonia are illegal. When a group of radical Indian thugs violate Canadian law, they are behaving in a manner consistent with that of a terrorist. Illegal occupations where illegal before C-51; and now with C-51 becoming Law, this activity is still illegal.
Another shining example is the illegal activity of a certain radical environmental group, Greenpeace. When activists break and enter into private property and vandalize a building to ‘protest’ our government’s apparent lack of concern with climate change, it becomes necessary to note that this has extended beyond the realm of ‘peaceful protest’. Illegal trespassing onto private property is illegal. It was illegal before C-51 and is still illegal after C-51.
Moving on indeed, I wrote, “Part three of C-51 deals with updating terminology to amend the Criminal Code of Canada, modernizing it and bringing it into the 21st Century.”
Todman responded to that selection with, “Well, that’s certainly a very brief way to gloss over one of the more harmful parts of the bill. Part III deals with ‘terrorist propaganda’ and some undefined open ended terms that will somehow be determined to be ‘terrorist propaganda’”.
No sir, this was not an attempt to ‘gloss over’ a section of C-51. Part three introduces modern terms such as ‘social media’.
If an aboriginal group or an environmental group wishes to organize a peaceful rally using social media to orchestrate a protest, fine. So long as the protest is peaceful and legal. So long as the organizers are not pushing individuals into breaking the law, there is no problem. If however a group implores its members to break the law to illustrate their point, that is illegal and can arguably called ‘terrorist propaganda’. This practice of promoting illegal activities was illegal before C-51; only now we call it ‘terrorist propaganda’ instead of merely, ‘illegal or criminal activities’. When a group wishes to terrorize another group to illustrate their point: that is terrorism.
I understand your concerns Mr. Todman, and I can sympathize. But the real target of your concern of overreaching government oversight is justified in root legislation long before C-51 was a gleam in Harper’s eye. C-51 is merely a bill that streamlines and modernizes all the various security legislation already on the books.
Bill C-51 passed the upper Chamber on June 09/15 by a vote of 44-28 in favour. It’s now June 18 and Todman and I can still engage in this sort of free debate.
I love Canada. We are the land of the free, and even after C-51 became law, we still are.
You’re correct Todman when you note, “Me and you are not the legal experts.” I am not a lawyer, nor am I a paralegal. What I am is a Canadian Citizen who is applying common sense to a bill that merely means to streamline existing Canadian Laws.