Wake up and Smell the Civil Liberties!

July 5, 2017, Calgary, AB – Let me begin by stating in no uncertain terms that I do not condone the killing of anyone, for any reason. Nor do I condone the conscription of children into their parent’s wars. I completely disagree with the use of torture, coercion, and threats of life-long imprisonment to extract confessions for crimes. And I get angry when governments pay out millions to anyone, as consequences for their bumbling efforts to “speak to their base.”

The Omar Khadr case raises all of these issues: terrorism, child soldiers, government use of torture, bad legislation, restriction of civil liberties to protect safety, and poor adherence to the rule of law. Fundamentally, the case is about consequences that result when governments fail to follow — or simply ignore — the rule of law and fail to uphold all citizens’ fundamental rights and civil liberties. It is this issue the Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association finds most troubling.

Omar Khadr was a child soldier conscripted by his father to fight in Afghanistan against Western soldiers. The Americans claim he killed a soldier and wounded another; and at least one US judge who awarded a default judgement of $134.2 Million to the widow of an American soldier killed in Afghanistan appears to believe that claim. Omar Khadr claims he does not remember throwing a grenade or much else about the firefight in which he was badly injured. He was taken to Guantanamo prison where he languished as the youngest person in the complex. While there, he was tortured before being interrogated by Canadian officials who gave their findings to the Americans.  Khadr was told that he would stay in Guantanamo for life unless he confessed. So, he did. To avoid life-long imprisonment, he confessed to killing an American soldier but to this day claims he did not.

A general timeline can be read at: http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/omar-khadr-s-legal-odyssey-from-guantanamo-bay-to-apology-1.2987034 and http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/key-events-in-the-omar-khadr-case-1.1153759 Some addition references can be found through: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omar_Khadr

The 2010 Supreme Court of Canada decision about the government actions concerning Khadr’s imprisonment and treatment in Guantanamo is clear: the Canadian Government was complicit in his torture and ongoing imprisonment to obtain a confession. The 2010 decision states:

Canada actively participated in a process contrary to its international human rights obligations and contributed to K’s [Omar Khadr’s] ongoing detention so as to deprive him of his right to liberty and security of the person, guaranteed by s. 7 of the Charter , not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice…. (for a summary of these principles, read the CCLA submission to the SCC). The interrogation of a youth detained without access to counsel, to elicit statements about serious criminal charges while knowing that the youth had been subjected to sleep deprivation and while knowing that the fruits of the interrogations would be shared with the prosecutors, offends the most basic Canadian standards about the treatment of detained youth suspects.

K is entitled to a remedy under s. 24(1) of the Charter .  The remedy sought by K — an order that Canada request his repatriation…

Under the Harper government, Khadr returned to Canada. He has since filed a 20 million dollar claim for the abrogation of his civil liberties. Now, the current Government of Canada has settled out of court for over 10 million dollars, the same amount that the Harper government paid out to settle the Maher Arar case of wrongful imprisonment and torture.

In both cases (and others), the Government of Canada did not do its job to uphold human rights and civil liberties of all of its citizens, and all Canadians have to pay for that choice.

Let’s be very clear about what the result might have been if the rule of law and civil liberties had been upheld in this case. One scenario would have seen Khadr returned to Canada where he would have faced a proper trial, and found guilty of the crimes he is alleged to have committed. Under this scenario, he would likely still be in jail and no payout would have occurred. Another scenario might have been that Khadr was found to be innocent of the charges and released from jail, and no payout would have occurred. A wide range of other scenarios can also be envisioned with a person accused of multiple crimes. Regardless, in all these scenarios, the Government of Canada would have upheld all of our rights and liberties — Khadr’s included. There could be no argument that human rights and civil liberties were not upheld, and the Government would not now be paying millions to Khadr in compensation.

This case is an unfortunate but very real example of what happens when human rights, civil liberties, and the rule of law are not protected. Rather than do the right thing, and in a rush to appeal to its political base, the government chose to undermine rights and liberties. The consequence is that all Canadians are now paying the price. It angers many and no one comes out as a winner. A further consequence is that we might never know if the 15 year old Khadr is truly guilty or innocent of the charges.

Perhaps it is time for governments in Canada and across the globe to wake up and smell the civil liberties before taxpayers are saddled with further needless payouts.

A true test of a healthy and free democracy is whether its elected representatives stand up to protect the rights and liberties of its citizens, even in the face of immense pressure to do otherwise. Paradoxically, when governments fail in this obligation, individual liberties are eroded, those fighting against democracy seem to win, and the rest of us all lose, simply left feeling outraged.

Kelly Ernst, President
Rocky Mountain Civil liberties Association

An edited version is printed in the Calgary Herald, July 7, 2017

Posted in Access to Justice, Fundamental Human Rights, Rule of Law | Comments Off

RMCLA Applies for Intervenor Status in Supreme Court Case

Free expression in Alberta has been dealt a huge blow by the Alberta Court of Appeal, and RMCLA is applying for intervenor status as this case proceeds to the Supreme Court of Canada. We are doing this to protect your freedom of expression and we could use your help.

Here’s why:
Unless the Court of Appeal’s decision is reversed it could mean that, when critiquing politicians or government officials, they could have you charged under the Criminal Code if they don’t like your comments.

Here’s what happened:
Karen MacKinnon, a former Drumheller town councillor and Alberta resident, was charged under under section 301 of the Criminal Code after posting some critical remarks on Facebook about Drumheller town officials..

What didn’t come to light until after her conviction was that section 301 had been declared unconstitutional in Alberta nearly 20 years before. Section 301 has also been ruled unconstitutional in four other provinces —Saskatchewan, Ontario, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador. Despite that, section 301 remains in the Criminal Code and can still be used to silence people — especially when comments are about those in a position of power.

What’s worse is that, in March of 2017, the Alberta Court of Appeal held that Ms. MacKinnon could not challenge the constitutionality of section 301. That’s why Ms. MacKinnon has filed an application for leave to appeal that decision to the Supreme Court of Canada and is challenging the constitutionality of section 301 of the Criminal Code.

Here’s the bottom line:
If this decision remains unchallenged, it will directly affect you, your family and your friends. In a digital age where free speech is both more accessible and readily disseminated than ever before, critical comments you might make about actions of your community politicians and officials — and even remarks that are attributed to you — could end up being used against you.

We need your support to protect free speech in Alberta.

We need to show the Supreme Court of Canada that freedom of expression is important to Albertans, and that the government and powerful people should not be able to rely on an unconstitutional law to silence you and me for making comments they don’t like. We also need the Court to declare that section 301 is unconstitutional everywhere across the country, so that all Canadians can enjoy their Charter protected right to free expression.

This could be a very long and costly fight. Until this ruling is reversed, this assault on Albertans’ freedom of expression will be allowed to continue.

Without your help, we’ll continue to see people silenced, and powerful people able to take advantage of the unconstitutional Criminal Code provisions to silence their critics.

Help us fight back.

Your gift of at least $20 or more will empower us to ensure your voice can be heard, so please click here to donate now.

This is about more than just law and policy. It’s about who we are as a nation: if you believe there is nothing Canadian about undermining our fundamental rights, please join us in this fight before time runs out.

Donate & Become a Member
RMCLA cannot do its work without your financial support. We can only offer events, conduct research, publish articles reports or newsletter, and stay on-line with donations from you. If you want a voice for civil liberties in Alberta, then please give a donation and your first $20 goes toward your membership. Donate today at: http://rmcla.ca/donate.html

Or, mail your donation payable to:

Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association

c/o Alberta Civil Liberties Research Centre
Murray Fraser Hall, University of Calgary
2500 University Drive N.W.
Calgary, Alberta     T2N 1N4
(RMCLA is a not-for-profit organization and does not have charitable status, so cannot give charitable receipts)
Posted in Access to Justice, Democratic Rights, Freedom of Expression | Comments Off

Carding: More and more records keep getting added to the pile

Here is an article from Halifax, noting that the problem of carding or street checks and collecting information around the practice is a problem across the country.

By: Kaila Jefferd-Moor, The Coast

Halifax police are still waiting for an independent analysis of its street check data before deciding what, if any, action to take on the controversial practice.

In the meantime, more and more records keep getting added to the pile.

A January CBC investigation analyzed over a decade of Halifax Regional Police data and found that Black residents of HRM were three times as likely to be street checked by police as white people. In response, HRP promised to analyze the information more closely. But that analysis is on hold in favour of an independent review being conducted by the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission.

“We need to do more research,” Christine Hansen, director of the NSHRC, recently told HRM’s Board of Police Commissioners. “We need to have an expert look at that, and then we’re gonna come back to the table and talk about what’s next, and what’s next depends on what we find.”

There are two types of files produced by an HRP officer from a street check: Instance and entity records.

Instance records have about 15-20 fields to enter information, says HRP research coordinator Chris Giacomantonio. Those fields include X/Y coordinates, street address, division, the officer involved, notes and the reason for the check. The check could be made for a person, or even for an object or place.

“So, if someone found a needle on the sidewalk where someone might not have expected intravenous drug use to happen, they might enter that as a street check as well,” Giacomantonio says.

An entity record is created if the check involves a person, and has a limitless set of fields for everything from birthdate to ethnicity, height and weight, eye colour and body modifications.

“A lot of those fields are populated through prior contact with the criminal justice system,” says Giacomantonio. “By and large, the street checks that Halifax Regional Police conduct are involving people who have past criminal history or past involvement with the justice system in some other way.”

All of this collected information is stored in Versadex, the database housing system that HRP uses to store criminal records and other information. Versadex is connected to a Police Information Portal which connects “90 percent of all police systems,” says HRP communications advisor Cindy Bayers. Any police department connected to PIP has access to all the Versadex records—including street check information—housed in HRP’s system.

Data sharing amongst law enforcement agencies—especially of non-criminal personal information—has been condemned by privacy and civil rights advocates elsewhere. In Ontario, local and provincial police routinely share “carding” information with RCMP and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.

Halifax’s street checking policy looks a lot different than Toronto’s version of carding, says HRP. Officers aren’t just asking for IDs. Any interaction with police, whether it be in person or observed from afar, produces a record.

But if we’re going to compare ourselves against the standards of carding practices as a scale of judgement, there are other things to consider. As of January 1, Ontario has banned police from carding citizens for any reason other than during a traffic stop, while arresting or detaining someone, executing a warrant or investigating a specific crime.

Haligonians aren’t given the same courtesy of knowing when they’re being street checked, as an HRP street check can involve just a visual sighting of a person or object.

The Board of Police Commissioners, meanwhile, doesn’t yet have any policy in place on street checking practices. Until the NSHRC finishes its analysis and the board updates its internal policies, it appears the surveillance practice will continue in full force.

Marcus James was in attendance at a panel discussion on street checks that took place back in March and spoke about his own experiences being stopped three times by police while closing up the Halifax North Memorial Library. Continuing the practice means police are ignoring the pain felt by the Black community, he says.

“How many people need to come forward and share their pain, their experiences, before [HRP] is willing to sit down and look at bringing that to an end?”

Racial self-policing is the psychological result of being 1984’d by the police. The fear of the unwarranted attention given to specific people based on race causes them to learn behaviour in the hopes of diminishing the extra heat on their back. As Toronto journalist Desmond Cole writes in his award-winning article, “The Skin I’m In,” discriminatory surveillance causes people to feel like prisoners in their own city.

“Once you’re accused enough times, you begin to assume your own guilt, to stand in for your oppressor,” writes Cole.

James says he’s uninterested in sharing his own stories anymore until the police and the municipality step up.

“I just feel that until some real peaceful conversations, where we’re all at the table and looking at solutions on how we can move forward…for me, it’s really too painful.”

(Source: < https://www.thecoast.ca/halifax/checking-up-on-street-checks/Content?oid=7790384 >)

Posted in Right to Privacy | Comments Off

2017 National Data and Privacy Congress

RMCLA is pleased to announce that it is sponsoring the 2017 National Privacy and Data Governance Congress. We encourage you to register for this congress. See: https://pacc-ccap.ca/congress/

WHEN: April 5, 6, & 7, 2017

WHERE:
Carriage House Inn in Calgary, Alberta.
9030 Macleod Trail South, Calgary T2H 0M4
Call toll-free to book your stay: 800-661-9566 or 403-253-1101

The Congress brings together regulatory authorities and thought leaders from industry, government and academia to share insights about technological trends and regulatory developments that affect public and private sector organizations’ efforts to protect data and comply with privacy laws.

This year’s theme — ‘A World of Change’ — will focus on the most critical and timely privacy and data protection issues facing organizations today: those that foretell significant consequences for employers, employees and policy makers. As you’ll see from the agenda, the Congress content will be immediately relevant to you and your organization.

The issues being discussed at the Congress also have a direct impact on our civil liberties so, for the third year, RMCLA is a key supporter of the event and several Board members will be involved.

The Congress is about quality, not quantity, so registration is strictly limited. You can register online (at https://pacc-ccap.ca/congress/register/). If several people from your organization would like to attend, let me know so that we can arrange a group discount.

Please contact Sharon Polsky directly if you have any questions about the event or the Privacy and Access Council of Canada.

Register: If you have not already, then please register at: https://pacc-ccap.ca/congress/register/

Agenda: You can see the agenda at: https://pacc-ccap.ca/congress/agenda/

Speakers: There is an incredible line-up of speakers (see: https://pacc-ccap.ca/congress/speakers/).

Get Involved at RMCLA’s Annual General Meeting

RMCLA would like your involvement. We are currently seeking new board members. We are also seeking volunteers to sit on committees to help research issues and press for change. If you are interested in becoming involved, email secretary@rmcla.ca .

WHEN: Thursday March 9, 2017 at 6:30 pm

WHERE: Kahanoff Centre,
Room 202, 105 12 Ave S.E., Calgary T2G 1A1
(Centre Street and 12th Avenue S.W.)

RSVP: If you have not already, then we would like your RSVP to help plan for the meeting. Please RSVP at: secretary@rmcla.ca

Donate

RMCLA cannot do its work without your financial support. We can only offer events; conduct research; publish articles reports or newsletter, and stay on-line with donations from you. If you want a voice for civil liberties in Alberta, then please give a donation. Donate today at: http://rmcla.ca/donate.html

Kelly Ernst, President, Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Celebrating Canada’s Multiculturalism in Alberta

You’ve heard it before: Canada is a mosaic. A multicultural society with people from around the world. There’s even a photographer in Toronto who’s been photographing people from 190 countries — and they all live in Toronto. Talk about a multicultural city!

Although our country was founded on Judeo-Christian values, and we are all are equal under the law and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, it’s not that simple.

It was a lot more simple when our choices were limited. Like when the only choices were vanilla or chocolate ice cream.

You could go to public school or Catholic school. Church or synagogue. In some of the larger cities you could find a mosque or a Buddhist temple. But that’s all changed.

Now we have public schools and private schools. Religious and not religious. With instruction in English, French, and languages from countries around the world that aren’t English or French.

We can still go to church and synagogue. But now it’s a lot easier to find a mosque, a temple, and houses of worship with congregants from major and minor religions around the world.

Want to be a Pastafarian and go to a Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? You can do that too.

And even though we’re equal under the law and the Charter, the religious observances and traditions of some Canadians are a little more equal. They receive tremendous attention, while others are shunned or ignored.

Now, sure, there’s only so much time in a day, and only so much space for news articles in any day.

But there’s 365 days in a year, and many of those are taken up with religion. And if you want to be sure of the day, you can consult the Saint of the Day app for iPhones.

I haven’t seen anyone do that, but I have seen many people spend a lot of time and energy trying to avoid religion. Or at least trying to get other people to avoid it.

For years now we’ve been told not to wish anyone a “Merry Christmas”. It might offend someone. And it’s just not acceptable any more. Yet every year — and it gets earlier and earlier every year — we see all manner of trees decorated for Christmas. How long before we see Halloween pumpkins decorated for Christmas?

In the meantime, we don’t have to look at our smart phones to find to what time the sun will set. Sunset hours are announced on radio stations and published in major media throughout the month of Ramadan. How is it, though, that Friday sunset — the weekly start of the Jewish Sabbath — isn’t given the same attention at any other time of year?

In 2015 the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that religious prayer at city council meetings is unacceptable. It’s just unacceptable. The justices of Canada’s highest court said that, when the Mayor of Saguenay opened a public meeting by reciting a prayer, it violated an atheist’s freedom of conscience and breached the state’s duty of neutrality.

The decision was important to move Canada towards becoming a more inclusive country. But maybe that ruling and the separation of church and state only applies to the City of Saguenay or to the Province of Quebec. What else can it be, now that the Legislative Assembly of Alberta is formally recognizing Ramadan in a taxpayer-funded public celebration, hosted by the Speaker’s Office represented by Heather Sweet, MLA, and Deputy Chair of Committees, with remarks by the Honourable Irfan Sabir, MLA, and Ric McIver, MLA.

In almost 30 years of living in Alberta I don’t recall a time when Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur were recognized by any of Alberta’s political parties or systems — unless you consider that a modest ad placed in the local community newspaper is equivalent to a public event.

So where’s the problem? Where’s the balance? And where’s the neutrality?

 

Sharon Polsky

Vice President, Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association

Posted in Diversity, Equal Rights | Comments Off

Calgary Police data suggests Police Carding is Greatest in Diverse Neighbourhoods

May 9, 2016 – Calgary AB – The Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association (RMCLA), through an access to information request, received partial information from the Calgary Police Service (CPS) on carding (in Calgary they are called Police Check-Up Slips). For more background on the issue of carding and greater details regarding the released information, you can read our background article.

The CPS – FOIP (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy) Section provided a partial reply and indicated that it would only disclose a full set of information upon payment of a more than $14,000 fee. For example, information about the number of tickets written and charges laid as a result of carding, the number of field checkup slips entered into the Police Information Management System (PIMS) and sharing with other police services was not made available.

The second set of information disclosed by CPS revealed 219,972 carding events in Calgary from 2010 to 2015. The data suggest that these check-ups have reduced from 46,081 checkup slips in 2010 to 27,735 in 2015.

The CPS data also indicates that the greatest frequency of carding occurred within districts that include neighbourhoods with high diversity and a high proportion of low income people (i.e. Districts 1 which includes such neighbourhoods as the Beltline and 5 that include neighbourhoods such as Saddletown) compared to other parts of Calgary.

The reasons why checkups appear to occur more frequently in neighborhoods of greater diversity it is difficult to ascertain because the police did not disclose more information. RMCLA believes this issue is of public interest and ought to be discussed more broadly among Calgarians.

Given carding is a matter of public interest, RMCLA requested twice and was declined to have the data released without payment. Regardless, RMCLA remains open to meet with the Calgary Police Service to publicly discuss the CPS policy, procedures, data being collected, and circumstances around carding and to foster greater clarity about carding in Calgary. Data released is below.

District
Check-Up Slips in 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Total
2010 8,115 5,381 4,163 7,498 6,756 6,706 3,368 4,094 46,081
2011 7,528 6,433 4,858 5,579 5,866 4,853 3,975 3,074 42,166
2012 6,648 5,074 4,421 4,182 5403 3,869 4,093 2,552 36,242
2013 5,347 4,299 2,893 6,112 5,090 3,011 3,631 3,095 33,478
2014 5,060 4,247 2,852 4,656 7,100 3,904 3,458 2,993 34,270
2015 4,749 3,964 1,837 3,935 5,145 2,997 2,507 2,601 27,735
Total 37,447 29,398 21,024 31,962 35,360 25,340 21,032 18,409 219,972

 

District
Patrols 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Total
2016 173 80 80 116 108 100 88 80 825

 

RMCLA is grateful that CPS provided some basic information without any charge, however that information remains insufficient to answer basic questions associated with our inquiry. We hope that the CPS comments on their data and releases more data to the public in their commentary so that the public may be better informed about the issues surrounding police check-up slips.

About RMCLA

The Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association is an Alberta organization founded to promote respect for and observance of fundamental human rights and civil liberties. Our work aims to defend and ensure the protection of individual rights, freedoms and liberties. www.rmcla.ca

Posted in Right to Privacy | Comments Off

Open Letter regarding Alberta Education’s Guidelines to Respect Diverse Sexual Orientations

Today I read with great interest Bishop Henry’s letter concerning the Minister of Education, Hon. David Eggen’s, requirement that Board Chairs of Public, Separate, Francophone and Charter School Boards respect diversity and foster a sense of belonging across Alberta such that their board policies reflect Alberta’s regulations by March 31, 2016.

As the Chairperson of hearings regarding Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) in Alberta schools that heard from people of all ages, faiths, genders, and political stripes across Alberta, I feel compelled to correct statements made by Bishop Henry.

He stated that, “GSAs and QSAs are highly politicized ideological clubs which seek to cure society of ”homophobia” and “heterosexism,” and which accept the idea that all forms of consensual sexual expression are legitimate…” – See more at: http://www.calgarydiocese.ca/messages-from-the-bishop/1367-pastoral-letter.html

This statement is quite contrary from the finding of our hearings and final report that were reflected in the legislation passed in the spring of last year. It is a clear misunderstanding of what the mandate of a GSA actually entails and the essence of respecting diverse sexual orientations in Alberta schools.

I feel it is quite important to address this misinformation and correct Bishop Henry by repeating a few key pieces of information contained in our report. For the entire report, see: http://www.rmcla.ca/GayStraightAllianceFinalReportRMCLA2015.pdf

It should be noted that Bishop Henry or a representative of his office was invited on multiple occasions to participate in our hearing process. Our invitations were declined at each attempt. It is also important to note that our hearing process did include input from many Catholics, including Catholic school children who were some of the most compelling speakers at our hearings.

As we concluded from our hearings, “GSAs are voluntary student-centered school clubs open to all students. As with chess, math and knitting clubs, forming, attending, and participating in GSAs is entirely voluntary: There is no mandatory attendance required of any student; it is a club open to all students.” The legislation and subsequent Alberta Education guidelines on the matter did not change this core component of a GSA.

Our process noted eight common hallmarks articulated by people associated with these clubs:

  1. “A school club. A GSA is an assembly of students as a school club; and
  2. Open to all. Membership in the club is open to all students within a school; and
  3. Voluntary participation. Members of the club all participate voluntarily: no one is compelled to attend, and all students have the option not to attend; and
  4. Free association. The club allows free association among students for friendship, camaraderie and/or support; and
  5. Free expression. Within the clubs, the students may freely and safely express themselves. GSA participants are not limited or required to discuss issues relating to any particular topic, including sexuality and gender identity; they may discuss (or not discuss) any topic they choose; and
  6. A safe place. The club is intended to be a safe and secure place for students to meet within schools; and
  7. Avoidance of harm. GSA clubs allow students to have a place to avoid interpersonal harms, such as harassment, bullying, or other forms of abusive behaviour that occur within schools; and
  8. Oriented for LGBTQ students and their allies/friends. GSA clubs are particularly oriented to assist students who perceive themselves to be disenfranchised in some manner, or who identify with some sort of diverse sexual orientation or gender identity, and their allies within schools to receive support and promote a feeling of equality with one another.”

Our public consultation process also revealed themes concerning the mandate of GSAs. These included:

  • “To encourage safety within schools. Central to the mandate of a GSA is the focus on creating, holding and maintaining a safe place within a school for gay and lesbian students, students who self-identify as a having a diverse gender identity or sexual orientation, and others who might wish to demonstrate support or friendship toward these students.
  • To encourage dignity for all within schools. GSAs are places where the value, dignity and worth of all individuals is respected and all students are welcome, and where this can be encouraged in a variety of ways that fit the composition of the group (i.e. education, advocacy, and support).
  • To provide social support relevant to LGBTQ students. GSAs are places for students to provide peer support to help students understand and cope with the complexities of being part of a minority group. For others who join GSAs, it can be a place to gain a better and more compassionate understanding of their fellow students.”

Indeed, people repeatedly noted that a GSA is often the only safe place in a student’s life, free from bullying, abuse, humiliation and intolerance they commonly experience in their daily life outside the club.

We also noted what GSAs are not. “GSAs did not resemble the misinformed and often misleading characterization of GSA clubs as dating clubs, sexual education classes, or places to recruit or inculcate people to become “gay” or “lesbian”. In fact, no evidence was presented or available from any source to indicate that GSA clubs engage in any such activities.” Further we noted that, “GSAs are not — nor are they designed or intended to be — exclusive to LGBTQ students and, rather than diminish it, in fact GSAs promote and increase inclusion at school.”

One of the key principles that is often overlooked when discussing the inclusion of all children in schools is the idea that “…ongoing abuse exists within Alberta schools, particularly directed toward LGBTQ students, and there appears to be a real, active, and proximal duty to protect students from this harm. The panellists were persuaded that LGBTQ minors are a particularly vulnerable group.” RMCLA therefore suggested that the government has a duty to act in the best interests of protecting the well-being of minors as a paramount principle to go forward in the coming months and years. The Hon. Mr. Eggen’s attempts to implement policies in schools related to LGBTQ students seem consistent in this regard.

Other points that underline the misinformation that Bishop Henry has forward are also included in our report. For these I take directly out of our report, as these excerpt speak for themselves.

There is considerable legal precedent to suggest that when “… the protection of minors is concerned, the minors’ interests must prevail over the wishes or interests of adults. While parents are free to engage in various practices, including religious practices, in certain cases the best interests of the child may be invoked to protect a child from those very practices. Even in such cases, however, the parent is still free to exercise their own religious rights or freedoms.”

“While religious and other parental rights are recognized, the courts and legislatures can and have imposed conditions on the exercise of those rights where warranted by the interests of the child. In Young v Young[1] the Supreme Court of Canada stated:

The power of the custodial parent is not a “right” with independent value granted by courts for the benefit of the parent. Rather, the child has a right to a parent who will look after his or her best interests and the custodial parent have a duty to ensure, protect and promote the child’s best interests.

The legislative provision for the “best interests of the child” does not limit and therefore does not violate the Charter right to religious and expressive freedom. Religious expression not in the best interests of the child is not protected by the Charter because the guarantee of freedom of religion is not absolute and does not extend to religious activity which harms or interferes with the parallel rights of other people. Conduct not in the best interests of the child, even absent the risk of harm, amounts to an “injury” or intrusion on the rights of others and is clearly not protected by this Charter guarantee. “Injure” in this context is a broad concept. To deprive a child of what a court has found to be in his or her best interests is to “injure”, in the sense of not doing what is best for the child. A child’s vulnerability heightens the need for protection and any error should be made in favour of the child’s best interests and not in favour of the exercise of the alleged parental right. An additional factor which may come into play in the case of older children is the “parallel right” of others to hold and manifest beliefs and opinions of their own.”

We also noted that as children age and become more mature greater autonomy is given to children.

“The mature minor doctrine underscores the importance of self-determination and choice in a young person’s life. The Supreme Court of Canada has determined that, as children mature, their capacity for making decisions on their own increase, and the influence of their parents decrease.[2] The Court noted that,

The purpose of the Child and Family Services Act is to defend the “best interest” of children who are “in need of protection” — this means, in this context, children who do not have the capacity to make their own decisions about medical treatment. When applied to young persons who possess the requisite capacity, the presumption has “no real relation” to the legislative goal of protecting children who do not possess such capacity. The deprivation in the case of mature minors is thus arbitrary and violates section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The ‘mature minors doctrine’ enables and affords legal protection for the rights of persons under the age of majority to make (sometimes significant) medical and life choices, including the undertaking of practices and behaviours — such as pre-marital sex and the use of contraception — that are contrary to some religious teachings and can have serious and life—altering consequences.”

Finally, with respect to religion, “The Supreme Court of Canada has also noted that, even then, religious belief is not absolute. The Court has discussed the intersection of conflicting or differing religious views:

The purpose of freedom of conscience and religion becomes clear. The values that underlie our political and philosophic traditions demand that every individual be free to hold and to manifest whatever beliefs and opinions his or her conscience dictates, provided inter alia only that such manifestations do not injure his or her neighbours or their parallel rights to hold and manifest beliefs and opinions of their own.[3]

Statements made by the Pope, Alberta’s Catholic Bishops, as well as opinions expressed by religious leaders and followers of other faiths are all strong evidence that a debate is alive and well in religion regarding the issues of our inquiry.

Not every effect of legislation on religious beliefs or practices is offensive to the constitutional guarantee under s.2(a). The section does not, therefore, require a legislature to refrain from imposing burdens regarding the standards of education, even in the context where religion is practiced in schooling.[4]

Nor was it established that the presence of GSAs in schools has any deleterious effects on the central tenets of any religion. Given its voluntary nature a GSA in a school also does not diminish or interfere with other people’s choice to practice (or not to practice) any particular religion, even within the school.

Consequently, we do not find that there is any conflict between mandating GSAs in schools and freedom of religion.”

In this same vein of argument, we do not see that the Minister of Education is acting beyond his powers by requesting all boards have respectful policies and follow Alberta Education’s rules and regulations.

We respect Bishop Henry’s right to his own personal free expression, but that does not mean only his opinion prevails in Alberta, or elsewhere, as the definitive truth on every subject, especially when some of his opinions may indeed be incorrect.

Kelly Ernst

President, Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association


[1] [1993] 4 SCR 3, 1993 CanLII 34 (SCC)

[2] A.C. v. Manitoba (Director of Child and Family Services),  2009 SCC 30, [2009] 2 S.C.R. 181 http://scc-csc.lexum.com/scc-csc/scc-csc/en/item/7795/index.do

[4] (Jones v R [1986] 2 S.C.R. 284

Posted in Equal Rights, Freedom of Association, Freedom of Expression, Freedom of Religion, Rule of Law | Comments Off

National Privacy and Data Governance Congress

RMCLA is pleased to announce that it is sponsoring the National Privacy and Data Governance Congress. We encourage you to register for this congress.

Dates: from March 30 to April 1, 2016

Location: at the Carriage House Inn, 9030 Macleod Trail South, Calgary T2H 0M4
Congress Website: https://pacc-ccap.ca/congress-2/

This congress is an opportunity to learn about the most recent issues concerning your privacy rights, access-to-information, and data governance. Selected topics will examine such things as Privacy & Big Data, Surveillance in a Democracy, Intelligent Transportation Systems, Autonomous Vehicles: Data Heaven or Data Hell, and What’s Driving DNA Discovery.

Among the speakers is keynote Edwin Black. https://pacc-ccap.ca/congress-2/edwin-black/

He is the New York Times bestselling international investigative author with more than 1.4 million books in print in 14 languages in 65 countries, as well as scores of award winning newspaper and magazine articles in the leading publications of the United States, Europe and Israel. His work focuses on human rights, genocide and hate, corporate criminality and corruption, governmental misconduct, academic fraud, philanthropic abuse, oil addiction, alternative energy and historical investigation.

Editors have submitted Black’s work eleven times for Pulitzer Prize nomination, and, in recent years, he has been the recipient of a series of top editorial awards. In April 2015, Black testified before the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance as it studied of the cost, economic impact, frequency and best practices to address the issue of terrorist financing both in Canada and abroad.

For more on the speakers and agenda, please visit: https://pacc-ccap.ca/congress-2/speakers-2/

Get Involved

RMCLA would like your involvement. We are currently seeking new board members. We are also seeking volunteers to sit on committees to help research issues and press for change. If you are interested in becoming involved, email secretary@rmcla.ca .

Donate

RMCLA cannot do its work without your financial support. We can only offer events; conduct research; publish articles reports or newsletter, and stay on-line with donations from you. If you want a voice for civil liberties in Alberta, then please give a donation. Donate today at: http://rmcla.ca/donate.html

Kelly Ernst, President, Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association

Posted in Access to Information, Right to Privacy | Comments Off

Civil Liberties Issues End 2015 and Continue into 2016

At the end of 2015, two civil liberites issues persist and will certainly need to be addressed in 2016.

Civil Liberties and Anti-Terrorism Legislation

Bill C51 has yet to be amended by the new Liberal government. The concerns related to the bill remain and RMCLA has contacted the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Ralph Goodale, to encourage full public consultations on security and liberties. RMCLA suggests that consultation does not waver on the following principles in designing new legislation, such that:

  1. legislation be created to ensure civilian oversight of all efforts to monitor and implement security measures in Canada;
  2. any legislation made to protect Canadian security upholds the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and advances protection of our fundamental freedoms, not erode them;
  3. vague wording using terms such as “general terrorism” be eliminated and that terms in  legislation be used with specific clear terminology, preventing overly broad interpretation of legislation that could erode our fundamental freedoms;
  4. drafting amendments be done with consultation with civil society and experts; and
  5. examination of resources used on security measures occur, and where resources are not sufficient they be increased, rather than new laws be created to compensate for under-resourcing of security measures.

Police Carding and Your Liberties

The Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association has received various requests about police carding. In Calgary these are called “Field Checkup Slips.” Little is known in the public domain about carding in Calgary. To ensure Calgarians know more about this police practice, RMCLA has made a freedom of information request about the practice. When information is forwarded, we will be making the results public sometime in 2016.

Get Involved

RMCLA would like your involvement. We are currently seeking new board members. We are also seeking volunteers to sit on committees to help research issues and press for change. If you are interested in becoming involved, email secretary@rmcla.ca .

Donate

RMCLA cannot do its work without your financial support. We can only offer events; conduct research; publish articles reports or newsletter, and stay on-line with donations from you. If you want a voice for civil liberties in Alberta, then please give a donation. Donate today at: http://rmcla.ca/donate.html

Kelly Ernst, President, Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association

Posted in Access to Information, Freedom of Expression, Right to Privacy | Comments Off

Questions about Bill C51: Candidate Answers and Responses

The following are answers to RMCLA questions concenring Bill C51 from various candidates in Alberta’s federal ridings for the upcoming election on Oct. 19th, 2015. The responses have been received as of Oct 18, 2015. The entire set of questions can be viewed at: http://rmcla.ca/blog/?p=359.

____________________________________________________________________

A Liberal government will repeal the most offensive parts of C-51. Liberals have advocated a balanced approach that will keep Canadians safe, and protect their rights and liberties. We believe that our security and intelligence agencies require enhanced powers to help keep Canadians safe. We also believe in robust accountability and oversight of these agencies to protect Canadians and prevent them from being fearful of how these measures are being used.

• Canadians expect their government to do two things at the same time – protect their security, and defend their rights and freedoms.
• The Liberal Party of Canada supports C-51 because it contains significant measures that will keep Canadians safe.
• There are, however, understandable concerns with Bill C-51, and we share them. Liberals are committed to immediately fixing the problematic measures in C-51 to ensure adequate parliamentary oversight, mandatory legislative review, and that definitions with overly broad scope are narrowed to prevent misuse.
• As Liberals, we will not play the politics of fear. Conservatives stoke fears of terrorist attacks and propose legislation without consultation. The NDP plays up fear for various communities, environmentalists, and First Nations – with no plan to protect the security of Canadians.

Additional messaging:

• Liberals introduced a number of amendments to address concerns with Bill C-51, but the Conservatives refused to address the main problems with the legislation.
• Any government asking its citizens to give up even a small portion of their liberty must legislate safeguards so that these powers are not abused.
Further, a Liberal government will ensure that Canada has a robust plan for preventing radicalization before it takes root, in order to effectively protect Canadians’ public safety and prevent potential attacks.

The Liberal Party of Canada has a strong track record on legislation addressing terrorism. We brought in the first anti-terrorism legislation after the 9/11 attacks and support reasonable provisions for our security services.

To date, much commentary and analysis of the legislation in the public sphere has focused on measures related to cross-government information sharing, Criminal Code amendments including lowering the thresholds for terrorism-related peace bonds and a new offence of knowingly advocating or promoting terrorism, and expanding the mandate of CSIS—so-called “threat disruption activities”.

Concerns about these three measures focus mostly on the fact that the legislation is absent on oversight and accountability. The legislation fails to create any new mandatory statutory reviews or aParliamentary oversight committee as exists in our “Five Eyes” partners). There is no enhanced civilian oversight, or any real expansion of the review processes for SIRC or the RCMP. The bill is entirely silent on the intelligence gathering activities of CSE – the Communications Security Establishment.

There are also gaps in in terms of funding, and the RCMP Commissioner has stated that moving resources to address terrorism means that other important criminal investigations, such as organized crime and narcotics, do not have sufficient resources. The supplementary funding contained in Budget 2015 for security agencies is back-loaded and pales in comparison to what the Conservatives are spending on vanity advertising. The legislation is also silent on any additional training that may be required for the enhanced operational mandate provided to CSIS by Part 4 of the Act.

Cam Stewart, Liberal Candidate – Calgary Forest Lawn

____________________________________________________________________

As the federal NDP candidate in Lethbridge, I can assure you that the NDP will repeal bill C-51. You can be confident in this statement because the NDP is the only party that voted against this bill and has held firm that it violates civil liberties.

Kind regards, Cheryl Meheden, NDP Lethbridge

____________________________________________________________________

Please find the Liberal amendments here (https://www.liberal.ca/files/2015/03/C-51.pdf) for your ease of reference.

Brendan Miles, Liberal Part of Canada, Calgary Heritage

____________________________________________________________________

Due to the nature of campaigning I am not be able to give your questions the full time that they deserve.  Though I will leave you with this:

http://www.ndp.ca/repeal-c-51 and this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tLVYG88AEKE

I believe we can have both liberty and security together.

Guy Desforges, Sturgeon River – Parkland Canidate
Le NPD du Canada | Canada’s New Democrats
____________________________________________________________________

The balance that must be struck between security concerns and personal liberties is a question of vital importance to all Canadians and an issue to which all candidates must beheld to account.

Bill C-51, while making Canadians safer in some ways, has some problematic elements that must and will be addressed by a new Liberal government. It is a far-from-perfect bill. We will repeal the problematic elements of Bill C-51, and introduce new legislation that better balances our collective security with our rights and freedoms.

We will introduce new legislation that will, among other measures:

  • Guarantee that all Canadian Security Intelligence Service warrants respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
  • Ensure that Canadians are not limited from lawful protests and advocacy;
  • Require that government review all appeals by Canadians on the no-fly list;
  • Narrow overly broad definitions, such as defining “terrorist propaganda” more clearly;
  • Limit Communications Security Establishment’s powers by requiring a warrant to engage in the surveillance of Canadians;
  • Require a statutory review of the full Anti-Terrorism Act after three years; and
  • Prioritize community outreach and counter-radicalization, by creating the Office of the Community Outreach and Counter-radicalization Coordinator.

Additionally, currently Parliament does not have oversight of our national security agencies, making Canada the sole nation among our Five Eyes allies whose elected officials cannot scrutinize security operations. This leaves the public uninformed and unrepresented on critical issues. We will create an all-party committee to monitor and oversee the operations of every government department and agency with national security responsibilities.

Canadians know that in Canada, we can both improve our security while protecting our rights and freedoms. Kent Hehr, Justin Trudeau, and the Liberal Party are committed to doing just that.

Ben Charland, Communications Lead, Kent Hehr for Calgary Centre

____________________________________________________________________

I support Thomas Mulcair. I do not support Bill C-51, another bill passed through the house in haste by Mr. Harper without reaching out to experts to properly examine it.

Cam Alexis, NDP Candidate Peace River – Westlock

____________________________________________________________________

Thank you for the opportunity to respond – and although my answers may not encapsulate your specific inquiry – it will speak to the values and priorities of the Liberal Party of Canada regarding Bill C-51 in general.

We will repeal the problematic elements of Bill C-51, and introduce new legislation that better balances our collective security with our rights and freedoms.

Canadians know that in Canada, we can both improve our security while protecting our rights and freedoms.

We will introduce new legislation that will, among other measures:

•guarantee that all Canadian Security Intelligence Service warrants respect the Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
•establish an all-party national security oversight committee;
•ensure that Canadians are not limited from lawful protests and advocacy;
•require that government review all appeals by Canadians on the no-fly list;
•narrow overly broad definitions, such as defining “terrorist propaganda” more clearly;
•limit Communications Security Establishment’s powers by requiring a warrant to engage in the surveillance of Canadians;
•require a statutory review of the full Anti-Terrorism Act after three years; and
•prioritize community outreach and counter-radicalization, by creating the Office of the Community Outreach and Counter-radicalization Coordinator.

As this legislation is tabled in Parliament, we will launch broad public consultations, to engage and seek the input of Canadians and subject-matter experts.

Regards, Jacqueline Biollo, Liberal Party of Canada, Edmonton–Wetaskiwin

____________________________________________________________________

The NDP were the only party with the conviction to stand up to Bill C-51 in the House of Commons, unsuccessfully voting against it, while the Conservatives rammed it through Parliament with the support of the Liberals, despite opposition from the majority of Canadians. Tom Mulcair and the NDP took a very strong and principled stand against Bill C-51, a position which was supported by four previous Canadian Prime Ministers. The NDP identified that the legislation had much more to do with the politics of fear and division than with keeping Canadians safe.

While this bill was being debated in the parliament, the NDP rejected some of the most controversial provisions, including the new disruption powers to be extended to CSIS, the lowered threshold for preventive detention and vague new definitions that could lump dissent in with violent extremism. The party also put forward substantive amendments, including:

  • Restoring the position of CSIS inspector general, which was abolished in 2012.
  • Regular reports to the House by the Security Intelligence Review Committee.
  • Stricter limits on information-sharing provisions to cover only terrorism.
  • Stronger privacy protections throughout the bill
  • Sunset clauses and mandatory review requirements.

Our party has made it clear during this campaign that we would repeal Bill C-51 because it weakens the fundamental freedoms of every Canadian and this is a view that I wholeheartedly support. I believe that there are ways to keep Canadians safe and protect our great country without jeopardizing our freedoms and core elements of our democracy, which C-51 does.

Alison Thompson,  NDP, Foothills

____________________________________________________________________

The NDP voted against Bill C-51. We do not believe in warrantless access, unless in limited emergency situations, mass surveillance, or expanding powers of CSIS, especially without strong oversight and accountability mechanisms, which do not currently exist.

I think we can all agree that terrorism is a very real threat.  But we need to be very careful with how we move forward.  Stephen Harper keeps giving us a false choice—one that tells us that we need to give up our rights to be safe. Bill C-51 was condemned by legal experts, civil liberties advocates, privacy commissioners, First Nations leadership and business leaders, for the threats it poses to our rights and freedoms, and our economy.

New Democrats know that free societies are safe societies, and we will keep fighting for your rights and freedoms.  I do not support C-51 and an NDP lead government will repeal the bill.

Sincerely, Kyall for Re-elect Linda Duncan campaign

____________________________________________________________________

The Politics of fear, has driven this agenda and Bill C-51 is an exaggerated response to an exaggerated fear.
We would repeal it. If we need additional legislation to add security it will be written, but not at the expense of personal rights and freedoms.

Thomas Mulcair is the only leader who has said he would not require women wearing a Niqab to remove it during a citizenship ceremony. If Canadians truly enjoy personal rights and freedoms (including speech, assembly, expression, and religion) then new people coming to our country should enjoy the same freedoms.

Doug Hart, Red Deer Lacombe NDP

____________________________________________________________________

The NDP voted against Bill C-51. We do not believe in warrantless access, unless in limited emergency situations, mass surveillance, or expanding powers of CSIS, especially without strong oversight and accountability mechanisms, which do not currently exist.

I think we can all agree that terrorism is a very real threat.  But we need to be very careful with how we move forward.  Stephen Harper keeps giving us a false choice—one that tells us that we need to give up our rights to be safe. Bill C-51 was condemned by legal experts, civil liberties advocates, privacy commissioners, First Nations leadership and business leaders, for the threats it poses to our rights and freedoms, and our economy.

New Democrats know that free societies are safe societies, and we will keep fighting for your rights and freedoms.  I do not support C-51 and an NDP lead government will repeal the bill.

Thank you, Katherine Swampy, NDP

____________________________________________________________________

Firstly, thanks for writing on the important issue of C-51. I have committed to answering every single email I receive during the campaign, especially from constituents and am finding myself a little backed up. Because of this it may take me another day or two to get back to you, especially on such a complex issue with such in depth questions, but know I am going to respond to you soon, but in the mean time you can check out my blog post on C-51 found at http://jeffreyrock.liberal.ca/bill-c-51-stephen-harpers-anti-terrorism-legislation/

Rev. Jeff Rock, Liberal Party of Canada, Candidate for Red Deer-Lacombe

____________________________________________________________________

The answer is to repeal Bill C-51.

Abdou Souraya for Calgary Forest Lawn Riding | Canada’s New Democrats

Posted in Access to Information, Freedom of Expression, Right to Privacy, Rule of Law | Comments Off