Questions Regarding Bill C51

The following questions were sent to all Federal leaders and all candidates in Alberta, representing the Conservative, Liberal, and New Democratic Parties. The questions referred to 2015 changes to the Canadian Security Intelligence Act, Secure Air Travel Act, and Security of Information Sharing Act (included in Bill C51). We encourage you to ask these questions to the candidates in your riding. Candidates’ responses to the questions will be posted as they arrive at: http://rmcla.ca/blog/?p=361.

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In general, would you make any changes to legislation related to Bill C51, and if so what would these changes be? More specifically, the following questions address various topics.

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1) Context: Under Bill C-51, the definition of what defines a threat to Canadian security has been loosely described, leaving much to be interpreted. Part 3 of Bill C-51 makes amendments to the Criminal Code (S.83.221(1)) stating: “Every person who, by communicating statements, knowingly or advocates or promotes the commission of terrorism offences in general…is guilty of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than 5 years.” The types of statements, context, and promotions remain undefined in the Act.

Given the lack of clarity on this subject and the potential for broad interpretation, many civil liberties groups, lawyers, judges and academics suggest it could present many difficulties for law abiding citizens. For example, online sharing of articles regarding a petition against the oil sands in Alberta, and signing petitions on social media could be construed as advocating terrorist ideologies.

Question 1) Describe what your party proposes as policy to protect freedom of expression, while simultaneously addressing security concerns?
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2) Context: The New Secure Air Travel Act in Bill C-51 outlines that, in order to prevent terrorist acts from being committed within Canada, air travel will be suspended for individuals under varying circumstances. Under S.8(1) of the Act, the Minister may generate a list of persons based upon reasonable grounds to believe that individual may present a risk to the security of the air travel, or to the security of Canada. S. 20(1) of the same Act prohibits disclosure of this list. There is no way a person can know if they are on that list until they arrive at the airport. “Reasonable grounds” is also undefined.

Given these sections, it has been suggested by some civil liberties groups, lawyers, judges and academics that any number of activities, including expressing dissenting points of view from government policy, could land everyday citizens on the no fly list, resulting in restricted mobility rights and security of the person from detainment.

Question 2) Describe how your party views these provisions and what, if any, changes you propose.

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3) Context: Section 8(1) of the Secure Air Travel Act under Bill C-51 gives the Minister powers to create a “no-fly” list based upon suspicion of terrorism. Although there is no way of knowing if a person is on the list until a person is denied travel, s.15 of that act outlines that any person denied travel may, within 60 days, apply to the Minister to have their name removed. The judge must determine whether the decision to add someone to, or remove their name from, the no-fly list is reasonable; and, if a decision is not reached within 90 days, the name will not be removed from the list. However, the judicial hearing may occur outside of public view, without representation on behalf of the affected individual, and with secret evidence used to prolong names remaining on the list.

Given the use of secret evidence, and ambiguous means to place people on the no fly list, various groups including the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Groups suggest there are numerous concerns related to freedom of mobility, association, and expression, plus significant access to justice issues.

Question 3) Describe what your party proposes as a means to discover if a person is on the no-fly list; what would be reasonable grounds to add a person to the list; the procedures to remove a name from the no-fly list; and for providing and protecting Canadians’ ability to gain access to justice concerning international security issues.

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4) Context: Part 4 of Bill C-51 (Canadian Security Intelligence Act) permits CSIS to take measures within and outside of Canada to reduce threats to the security of the country. Under S 21.1 of the Act, CSIS and other persons designated by the Minister may apply to a judge for a warrant granting authority to violate fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Charter.

The grounds for setting aside fundamental freedoms is noted as “reasonable grounds,” but this not defined in the act as what constitutes reasonable.

Given these provisions, many Canadians have expressed concern that the Act permits the circumvention of fundamental freedoms guaranteed by the Charter.

Question 4) Describe what your party proposes as policy to ensure that Canadians’ Charter rights are protected within and outside Canada. Describe what would constitute “reasonable grounds”.

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5) Context:
Under the CSIS Act, the agency is authorized to take “appropriate” measures to reduce threats to the security of Canada. Canadian civil libertarians, lawyers, academics and judges suggest that the broadness of this term could affect the average citizen. For example, CSIS could take action against individuals who attend an anti-terrorism rally or environmental protest.

Given this possibility, there are some concerns related to Charter-protected freedom of assembly and association, and regarding the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned.

Question 5) Describe how your party intends to address issues of peaceful assembly, freedom of association, and freedom from arbitrary detainment; to ensure protection of these freedoms, while simultaneously addressing issues of national security.

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6) Context: Under the Security of Information Sharing Act (Part. 1) of Bill C-51, “activities that threaten the security of Canada” is undefined. Section 8 of the Privacy Act provides exemptions from personal information being disclosed where the public interest outweighs the invasion of privacy. The addition of s.1 of the CSIS Act allows far greater amounts of information to be shared among at least 17 different institutions across the country (with many of those in turn sharing information internationally).

Given the lack of clarity as to what might constitute a “threat” to the nation’s security, many Canadians including civil libertarians, lawyers, judges and academics have expressed concern that individuals may not even realize the extent to which their privacy rights can be ignored in the name of protecting alleged threats to security.

Question 6) Describe what your party proposes as policy to protect Canadians privacy rights while addressing potential threats to security.

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