Any measures for national security must be balanced with every person’s right to civil liberties and freedoms protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Harper government introduced Bill C-51 in January of this year. The Bill represents far-reaching changes to CSIS by potentially criminalizing existing lawful activities and increasing the scope of CSIS ability to engage in secret judicially-approved counter-terrorism actions in Canada and abroad. More specifically:
- It allows CSIS to contravene the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and other Canadian laws with impunity.
- It lacks an oversight and review process of CSIS, the RCMP and other agencies tasked with national security work.
- It goes well beyond stopping genuine security threats by giving CSIS and the RCMP far-reaching new powers, lowering the threshold for preventative arrest and expanding the notion of what constitutes a threat to national security.
- Peaceful work stoppages, protests, demonstrations and other forms of nonviolent civil disobedience may be deemed unlawful and susceptible to far-reaching interference and disruption by the RCMP and CSIS.
- It introduces a new criminal offense for ‘advocating’ or ‘promoting’ the commission of a terrorism act – terms that could be interpreted very subjectively. This could impact freedom of speech, freedom of opinion, freedom of the press and academic freedom.
Although the legislation is extensive, the government is rushing through this bill without adequate debate or consultation during the Parliamentary process. Former Prime Ministers, Supreme Court Justices, legal and academic experts and many others who have expertise in the area of national security and constitutionally protected civil liberties have voiced serious concerns about this Bill.
PSAC strongly calls on the federal Conservative government to withdraw Bill C-51.
PSAC urges its members to write to their Member of Parliament outlining the grave impact Bill C-51 will have if made into law.