Sunday, October 18, 2015

In the Election Tommorrow, Remember C-51

I had intended to post more on this blog over the summer and fall, but life got in the way. So just a quick note, before the election tomorrow.

This is a close 3 way race. Your vote counts more than it would typically. So if you're not planning to vote, please reconsider. And because it's likely to be a minority government, the Greens could be a powerful force, so don't take my saying that it's a 3 way race to mean "don't bother voting Green".

And when you vote, don't forget that this happened:

And that after that, the Liberals supported the legislation so as not to appear soft on terrorism going into an election campaign, while publicly stating that they didn't like the legislation and would amend it if elected.

Those who have read this blog know why I think we need to remember and impose some political consequences for parties (or individual MPs, but in this case, anyone who was a party member voted with their party) that support legislation like C-51.Please remind others who may have forgotten, or may be unaware.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

C-51 passed on Tuesday

As of 5:30 PM Tuesday, Ottawa time, bill C-51 passed the Senate. All of the Liberals who were present voted against, along with the two independent senators who were present. All of the Conservatives who were present voted for it.

The breakdown is as follows:

Voted for C-51:
  • 44 Conservative senators
Voted against C-51:
  • 26 Liberal senators
  • 2 independent senators
    • Anne C. Cools
    • Elaine McCoy
Were not present to vote:
  • 6 Conservatives
    • A. Raynell Andreychuk
    • Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu (the seconder of C-51, currently under investigation by the Auditor General for expenses violations)
    • Jacques Demers
  • 2 Liberals
  • 3 "Independents"
    • Patrick Brazeau (formerly Conservative, currently suspended due to sexual assault allegations)
    •  Michael Duffy (formerly Conservative, currently suspended due to issues with senate expense claims)
    • Pamela Wallin (formerly Conservative, currently suspended due to issues with senate expense claims)
Further details to follow (I'll update this post - I just have to stop for tonight because it's late) but if you want to know who voted which way, go here for the vote breakdown, and here for full name, party affiliation, geographic constituency and contact information for each senator.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Final vote on C-51 scheduled for Tuesday at 5:30 Ottawa time

I was expecting that the final Senate vote on C-51 would take place yesterday. But looking at the Senate debates, it appears to have been delayed until Tuesday at 5:30. So that's how long you have to express your views to your senators.

The Hon. the Speaker: Pursuant to rule 7-4(5)(c), the standing vote is deferred to 5:30 p.m. at the next sitting, with the bells to be rung at 5:15 p.m.
Hon. Elizabeth (Beth) Marshall, pursuant to notice of June 3, 2015, moved:
That when the Senate next adjourns after the adoption of this motion, it do stand adjourned until Tuesday, June 9, 2015, at 2 p.m.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.

I've only had time to skim the recent debates in the Senate, but it appears that Senators have each been receiving hundreds to thousands of e-mails opposing C-51. I sent e-mails to all of the Conservative Senators from New Brunswick. No response yet.

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Book I'm Very Interested to Read. And You Can, Too - For Free

I just received this in my RSS feed:

This is just the sort of book I've been looking for - something that gives me an overview of the legal framework around and current state of government surveillance powers. I had seriously considered buying Craig Forcese's book, National Security Law - Canadian Practice in International Perspective, and I might yet do that, but Law, Privacy and Surveillance in Canada in the Post-Snowden Era has several advantages:
  • It's written by multiple authors, often specializing in the particular subtopic about which they're writing. (This may be true of National Security Law as well, I'm not sure)
  • It's up to date as of at least May 6th of this year. I saw a reference in one of the footnotes to the passage of C-51 through the House on May 6th. In other words, while it gives a historical context and legal analysis (most of the authors are lawyers or law professors) to current events, which usually means a few years delay, this book is very current. By comparison, Craig Forcese's book was written in 2007, and in order to get current, I'd have to read the book plus updates in his blog.
  • It's free. You could buy a paper or ebook format for $45, but it's also available for free under a Creative Commons share alike non-commercial license, as a PDF download, here.
I think both understanding Internet surveillance, and keeping this issue in people's minds until the October election, are important goals.  So here's what I'm going to do. I'm going to read through this book, slowly and carefully, and post my thoughts, reactions, and things I've learned on this blog. I'm going to do it on a schedule that is not too arduous for me, or for anyone else with a busy life who wants to read along with me. There are 9 chapters, each about 30 pages long. I'll read one chapter every two weeks, posting about the first chapter two weeks from now. Here's the schedule:

Part I: Understanding Surveillance

June 13, 2015: Chapter I: Canadian Internet "Boomerang" traffic and Mass NSA Surveillance: Responding to Privacy and Network Sovereignty Challenges

June 27, 2015: Chapter II: Forgotten Surveillance: Covert Human Intelligence Sources in Canada in a Post-9/11 World

Part II: Legal Issues

July 11, 2015: Chapter III: Foreign Intelligence in an Inter-Networked World: Time for a Re-Evaluation

July 25, 2015: Chapter IV: Lawful Illegality: What Snowden Has Taught Us About the Legal Infrastructure of the Surveillance State

August 8, 2015: Chapter V: Law, Logarithms, and Liberties: Legal Issues Arising from CSE's Metadata Collection Initiatives

Part III: Reforms and Accountability

August 22, 2015: Chapter VI: Permanent Accountability Gaps and Partial Remedies

September 5, 2015: Chapter VII: The Failure of Official Accountability and the Rise of Guerilla Accountability

September 19, 2015: Chapter VIII: Why Watching the Watchers Isn't Enough: Canadian Suveillance Law in the Post-Snowden Era

October 3, 2015: Chapter IX: Stuck on the Agenda: Drawing Lessons from the Stagnation of "Lawful Access" Legislation in Canada

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Immediate Action Required: Contact your Senators

Hi all:

I haven't posted on here in a while, partially because I was discouraged by the 100% strictly partisan vote about C-51 in the House of Commons (not a single person in Parliament broke with their party's line on C-51). The idea that regardless of what their constituents said or what they personally might think, every single person who voted did so based on party affiliation, kind of sapped my motivation to post here for a while, plus the rest of my life has been busy, so without a really important message to write about, I didn't post. But now I do have something important to say.

The bill has passed the House, and been debated and reviewed in the Senate. The final vote in the Senate, which is the real true final vote before this bill becomes law, will occur any day now. And... some of the Liberal senators are going to vote against. As of this writing, there are 5 senators (some Liberal, some Conservative) who have declared they are voting for C-51, and 15 (all Liberal) who have declared they are voting against. And 62 who have not declared their intentions.

The Conservatives still have a majority, but if the Senate is less partisan than the House, given that there has been a strong backlash even within the Conservative base, there's a chance to stop the bill just short of the goal line, as happened with the original CSIS act in 1983. So what I'm asking you to do,  if you're reading this, is to tell any Senators in your province who are undeclared that it's important that they vote against. Please do it now rather than later.

Source of "5 for, 15 against, 62 undeclared", and also a tool for contacting your senators:

If you want your senators' full contact info, go here:

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Vote Delayed One More Day - Final Vote Today

According to the transcript of yesterday's House proceedings, indexed on openparliament,ca:

 It being 5:30 p.m., pursuant to an order made earlier today, all questions necessary to dispose of the motion for third reading of Bill C-51 are deemed put and the recorded division is deemed to have been demanded and deferred until Wednesday, May 6, 2015, at the expiry of the time provided for government orders.
And according to the order paper for today, "the expiry of the time provided for government orders" looks like it means, at the latest, 5:30 PM, Ottawa time. Here is what time it is in Ottawa, so you can tell how that compares to your local time.

So that's how long you've got, before this bill gets voted on in the House for the final time. Speak to your MP now or forever hold your peace <-- not that. If this bill passes, don't forget that it happened. This law was made in a few months, and laws aren't forever, they can be unmade or changed by future governments when they don't make sense. I will be reposting the results of the vote, including who voted which way. There's an election soon. Hold your MPs accountable. They're there to represent you, not to just vote along party lines.

After the vote today, assuming it passes the House, the bill will still need to be voted on in the Senate. It could be stopped there, theoretically, but there's a Conservative majority there as well, so I'm not optimistic. But if it passes the House, I'll be talking to my province's Senators, and so should you.

Not sure who your MP is, or how to contact them? Find out here. They're just a phone call away.

Last night, I called Dominc Leblanc's office, and followed up with an e-mail (since it's hard to say exactly what you want to say on the spot while on the phone, and it's unlikely to be passed on accurately, because, well, there's a reason the game where one person says something to another who says something to another and it gets distorted is called "telephone".) The reason I contacted Dominc Leblanc's office is because:

  1. My MP already knows I exist, and has seen my presentation, and one of the people working in his office is following my blog. So, mission accomplished, there.
  2. Dominic Leblanc appears (from his parliamentary web page) to have a good deal of influence within the Liberal party, and they're the ones that are the swing voters in this situation. Also Elizabeth May suggested that he has some influence, in her presentation at St. Thomas University back in May.
  3. He's from New Brunswick, so as I'm a New Brunswick voter... I don't know how much difference that will make, actually, but it can't hurt.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

C-51 Being Pushed Through the House by Tuesday

Just had this delivered to my inbox...

That, in relation to Bill C-51, An 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, not more than one further sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at report stage of the Bill and one sitting day shall be allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill; and
That, 15 minutes before the expiry of the time provided for Government Orders on the day allotted to the consideration at report stage and on the day allotted to the consideration at third reading stage of the said Bill, any proceedings before the House shall be interrupted, if required for the purpose of this Order, and in turn every question necessary for the disposal of the stage of the Bill then under consideration shall be put forthwith and successively without further debate or amendment.

Monday, we will conclude the report stage debate of Bill C-51, the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015. Our Conservative government takes all threats to the security of Canada and Canadians very seriously.
That is why we are moving forward with Bill C-51 and the crucial provisions contained in it to protect our national security. Third reading of this important bill will take place Tuesday.(source)
In other words, if you want to get something said or done about C-51 while it's still possible for your elected representatives to vote against it, your deadline is Tuesday. So talk to your MP, and communicate with as many other people as you can reach. Once it goes to the Senate, there's the possibility that it could be defeated, but I'm not optimistic.

If this bill passes, please don't forget that it happened and move on to other things. Come election time, remember. I will be posting who voted for and against, once the votes take place, so that you can hold your elected representative appropriately accountable (or make it a positive for them, electorally, to have voted against).

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

C-51 Update: Comments in the House, and when Third Reading Might Occur

This is a quick post to update those interested on where bill C-51 currently stands.

After a second day of action across Canada (rallies in many cities across the country on Saturday, similar to those that took place on March 14th - I was at the one in Halifax, because I was attending the Atlantic Security Conference the day before) various sources had expected the bill to go through its third and final reading before the House of Commons this week. Guesses as to when that would be were as early as this past Monday, but the projected order of business shows no sign of it on the list of activities for this week. That may have changed by the time you read this, but it was true when I wrote it.

Which might make one think that the Government is reconsidering its position and, as I suggested in my presentation, might be willing to let the bill die on the order paper as the original CSIS act (1983) did when civil liberties groups protested. The senate then spent the summer revising the bill and a version that was much better emerged and was passed in 1984 (according to Roach and Forcese's Senate testimony - search for "1983"). Except, based on statements made in the House on Monday, there doesn't seem to be much change in the Government's position. Maybe there's more thoughtful consideration going on behind the scenes, but here is the full text of the three questions asked to Minister Blaney about C-51 on Monday:

Randall Garrison (NDP - Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC)
Mr. Speaker, Canadians in Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Windsor, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Edmonton, Vancouver, Victoria, and many other communities gathered together this weekend with one common goal: to urge the government to stop Bill C-51 from becoming law.

They recognize that this legislation will be ineffective, dangerous and that it undermines Canadians' rights and freedoms. Why does the minister not listen to them and withdraw this legislation?

Steven Blaney (Conservative - Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness)
Mr. Speaker, Canadians know they can count on our government to keep them safe. That is why we are making sure that our police have the tools they need to keep Canadians safe.
We are of the view of the witness who came to committee and said that legislation is important to combat radicalization. We need better tools to try to track jihadists who travel overseas.

Ms. Raheel Raza is the president of the Council for Muslims Facing Tomorrow. We share her views and we will deliver.
 (The bolding there was mine - but the use of singular rather than plural was not :-) 1 witness of 48... and this same witness was concerned with CSIS overreach)
Rosane Doré Lefebvre (NDP - Alfred-Pellan, QC)
Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have managed to get unanimity across the country. Canadians are unanimously opposed to the government's anti-terrorism bill.
In cities such as Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax, Vancouver and Ottawa, thousands of people have protested against Bill C-51. Members of first nations, unions and experts across the board are telling the Conservatives that this legislation is unnecessary and dangerous.

When will the minister listen to Canadians and do the right thing: drop Bill C-51?

 Mr. Speaker, our government will continue to take responsible measures to fight terrorism by preventing terrorists from boarding planes, by allowing parents to know that their child is being radicalized, and by shutting down sites that promote terrorism.
Common sense measures are supported by Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent's sister, who came here to Ottawa to call on all parliamentarians to stand up and protect Canadians from terrorism.

David Sweet (Conservative - Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON)
Mr. Speaker, Canadians are very concerned at the reports coming out of Montreal that two ISIS inspired extremists have been detained for plotting to engage in terrorist activity.

We all recall the horrific terrorist acts last October when Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent and Corporal Nathan Cirillo lost their lives at the hands of cold-blooded jihadi terrorists.

Could the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness give this House an update on what our Conservative government is doing to combat terrorism?

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale for his excellent work and his important question.

I also want to thank our RCMP officers for their work, working hand-in-hand with police officers and with other agencies to keep Canadians safe.

This is a stark reminder that the threat is real, that we need to take action and make sure that we have the resources and the tools that are needed to keep Canadians safe. Canadians can count on the Conservative government to take action.

PS: Randall Garrison and Rosane Doré Lefebvre were both representatives for the NDP at the C-51 committee hearings.
PPS: Monday is the latest day for which transcripts of the proceedings of the House were availabe when I was writing this post.
PPPS: The delay means you still have time to contact your MPs, or write a letter to the editor. If you're not sure how to go about this, OpenMedia has a handy form, which provides tips but doesn't put words in your mouth. And if you would like me to check a letter for factual correctness (with the proviso that I'm not perfect, just doing my best) I'm willing to do a few per day as time permits) just send your draft to

Monday, April 13, 2015

My Presentation to the Unitarian Fellowship of Fredericton

Here is the presentation on C-51 that I made this Sunday, in various formats. You are free to share and reuse this material as you see fit, but please:
  • Provide a link back to this blog post, so that people can get the original source material and ask me questions if they want to (and so that they can get updated versions if I notice glaring errors that need to be corrected)
  • If you make no changes, you can attribute it to me. If you make changes, please make it clear that your work is not my work.
  • Keep in mind that while I presented it at the Unitarian Fellowship of Fredericton, this presentation is not meant to represent them, nor has it been endorsed by them.
  • With that said, I want this information to get out and be widely known, so please do share with others.
I have made a video of this presentation (me reading my speaking notes with appropriate slide transitions). I may soon also make a few shorter videos of sub-parts of this presentation, for easy sharing.
Errata in the video: As I was going through the video, I noticed a couple of things I would like to adjust. Unfortunately my current computer takes about 8 hours to create a 30 minute video from a powerpoint with audio, and I have to go to work now. Since the errata don't invalidate most of the video, I'll just put them here for now:
  • When commenting on section 5, I said I couldn't find any commentary on it so we'll have to leave it. In fact, the Canadian Bar Association brief to the Committee does have some analysis - I just haven't read that part. The Canadian Bar Association brief is 50 pages long, and I will get to it, but I just skimmed it and saw that most of it lined up with the material by Roach and Forcese that I had already read, and moved on, because I was working on my presentation, which had a deadline. Apparently some of the special advocates filed a written submission to the committee as well. But I haven't read that either
  • When I read a statement by Craig Forcese to the house committee where he mentions "the Air India affair" I pause to explain that it was a hijacking. I don't really know a lot about the Air India affair, but I do know that it's more commonly referred to as "the Air India bombing", and if you want more information, that's the term that you should google.
  • At various points throughout the video, I refer to there being either 16 or 24 hours of committee hearings. I'd like to clarify: There were 16 hours of witness testimony (8 committee meetings of 2 hours each, with 3 witnesses appearing per hour, for a total of 48 witnesses). Then there was 13 and a bit hours of clause-by clause review - but several of those hours were elevator music playing as the committee was on recess or went out into the House to vote. As a rough guess, the total amount of active committee hearings was probably between 24-27 hours.
  • At one point, I said that the motion by the opposition to add an hour to the witness testimony so that the Privacy Commissioner could be heard from was defeated 5-4 by the Conservative majority. There were some motions that this was the case for, but I re-checked, and I was incorrect. In this case, Randall Garrison of the NDP rose on a point of order near the beginning of the March 10th meeting, and then tried to move a motion that the Privacy Commissioner be included. Normally you can't move a motion while rising on a point of order (a "point of order" is when you interrupt what's going on because you think there's been some breach of parliamentary protocol that needs to be corrected immediately) and so in order to make a motion in those circumstances, the unanimous consent of the committee would be needed (you can do pretty much anything in a committee meeting, if you have the unanimous consent of all committee members). Unanimous consent was not obtained (I'm  not sure who objected) so the motion was ruled out of order. Sorry everybody - I just discovered that there were transcripts of the hearings a few days ago, so when I wrote most of my presentation and speaking notes, I was relying on memory of the committee hearings I had listened to, in some cases several weeks prior.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

I've finished listening to all the hearings - posts to come, and there are transcripts!

I've finished listening through the committee hearings. It was definitely interesting, and I have notes of several things I want to do posts on, but particularly interesting was the clause-by-clause review. Some of the legal experts from the Department of Justice were there to answer any questions the committee members may have, as each clause and the proposed amendments were discussed. Some of the nuances of the law that I wasn't aware of, became clearer.

Another thing I discovered: openparliament has trasnscripts of the committee hearings, not just the business in the house! Which means if you want to know what a particular person said (either witness or government member) you can easily find it. And I won't have to find and transcribe the bits I want to use in blog posts! :) the link is here: and up in the useful links section.

I'm going to do a post about OpenParliament, after this is all done. I thought at first that they were a government-run site, part of the "open data" movement I know governments are trying now. But, no - that site, which is incredibly useful if you want to track what our elected representatives are saying and doing, was the result of one volunteer programmer's efforts. (I'm sure he would say he had help, but for now I'm going to give him a lot of credit.)

Makes me think that maybe I should head up an website someday when I get time...

I'm Presenting about C-51!

I'll be making a presentation about C-51 tomorrow morning at 11:00 AM at the Unitarian Fellowship of Fredericton, 874 York St. It's free, all are welcome, and there's  coffee and snacks a question and answer session afterwards. So if you're in the Fredericton area and you're curious about C-51, all you have to do is show up and ask whatever questions you have. The Unitarians have a Sunday meeting-thing that has a similar structure to a church's Sunday service, but they're very relaxed about things like whether you believe in one or more gods or not, so don't be put off by the format. If you come you'll probably not feel all awkward and out-of-place like you would (or I do) at church.

I have to emphasize, though, that I'm not presenting on behalf of the Unitarian Fellowship, of Unitarians more generally, or of any group or organization at all. I'm presenting my own invdividual views, and it's just taking place in that building.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Conservatives use their Majority in C-51 Committee to Reject ALL Opposition Amendments

The committee hearings are now over. After 1 day (admittedly, a 13 hour marathon session) of clause-by-clause review, bill C-51 will be heading back to the House of Commons for a final vote with almost no changes despite the Conservative government's show of responding to criticism.

According to the CBC, the Conservative majority on the committee reviewing C-51 has rejected all of the amendments proposed by any opposition party. And the fact that they've rushed a bill so many people have objected to so strenuously and have ignored almost all criticism, is worrying.

I'm trying really hard not to use language that would sound inflammatory and unreasonable. I've had to delete this paragraph several times. I am very disappointed that the democratic process has been subverted by the way the committee hearings have been conducted. A good numerical analysis (and those who know me know that numerical analysis is my favorite :) ) of how the committee hearings went can be found here:

Also, I've discovered that the audio of the hearings can be downloaded as a podcast, so I've put that up in the "useful links" section of the site. That will allow me to review the parts of the hearings I haven't yet got to, without having to sit in front of a computer at the time. Yay!

Anyway, here's a video that makes the point about how badly these hearings have gone more eloquently than I can. This is Conservative MP Diane Ablonczy:

And here's the amendment she was objecting to. It pertains to when a judge may issue a warrant allowing a CSIS officer to break the law or ignore the Constitution:

(3) Despite any other law but subject to the Statistics Act, if the judge to whom an application under subsection (1) is made is satisfied of the matters referred to in paragraphs (2)(a) and (c) that are set out in the affidavit accompanying the application and has determined that the measures proposed to be taken are consistent with the rule of law and the principles of fundamental justice, the judge may issue a warrant authorizing the persons to whom it is directed to take the measures specified in it ...
 (Source: The amendment is on PDF page 55, or page number 51, of the Green Party's amendments, while the original text is on PDF page 61 / page number 51, of the text of the bill prior to Conservative party amendments)

Note: When issuing a constitutional breach warrant, unlike MP Ablonczy stated, there is no language in bill C-51 which requires a judge to "consider the charter". Here are the "paragraphs (2)(a) and (c)" mentioned above:
(a) the facts relied on to justify the belief on reasonable grounds that a warrant under this section is required to enable the Service to take measures to reduce a threat to the security of Canada;
(c) the reasonableness and proportionality, in the circumstances, of the proposed measures, having regard to the nature of the threat, the nature of the measures and the reasonable availability of other means to reduce the threat;
In other words, the Green Party's amendment would have required that when a judge issues a warrant allowing a CSIS officer to break a written law or the Constitution, that judge determine that the decision is consistent with the rule of law and is fundamentally just. That if specific written laws are to be ignored, the judge must determine that fundamental principles underlying our legal system are still upheld. To which this Conservative MP responds that such considerations as "fundamental principles of justice", in air quotes, are "such a morass of opinions and considerations that action would be pretty much at a stalemate."

The rule of law and fundamental principles of justice are what one writes anti-terrorism law in order to defend.

I've written and then deleted several more paragraphs on the theme of "any government that (EDIT: or in this case, person who) doesn't respect the rule of law and fundamental principles of justice deserves to be removed from power." That's as calmly as I can say it, and I really hope, for the sake of our country, that that statement isn't too controversial.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

How to Talk to Conservatives about C-51

Today while browsing the web at lunch, I ran across something fantastic, which I want to share with all of the left-wing friends who are probably reading this blog (because almost all of the people I've met who have openly opposed C-51 have been left-leaning). Apparently, Free Dominion, a discussion forum specifically for conservative Canadians which "at its peak, had over 10,000 members and 3,000 visitors each day", and which the owners shut down due to a libel suit in early 2014, has been restarted, as of 5 days ago. You may not think that's fantastic, but wait for the reason. This is a direct quote from the site admins:
We believe Bill C-51 is the most dangerous piece of legislation ever proposed by a Canadian government. We will be here to help fight it, and, failing that, we will be here to make sure that it becomes a central election issue. (source)
That's right - hard-right Conservative party supporters have the exact same concerns, and if you look on their forum you will see they are reading some of the exact same articles and analysis, as the people of the opposite political persuasion who have been the backbone of the rallies in opposition to this bill. And the admins of Free Dominion care enough that they are willing to risk potential legal consequences by reopening their forum to oppose C-51. So if you're an environmentalist, a social activist, or someone who just has left-leaning values, wondering how to get through to your not-so-left friends about C-51, go check out the talk on Free Dominion for ideas. You won't get a lot of sympathy for your political views on most things, but on C-51, there's what I think is a wonderful (and in my experience, unique - a bill this bad doesn't come along every day) opportunity to build some common ground.

Here's a post specifically outlining why conservatives should oppose C-51

Another item that I noticed yesterday while looking on the Conservative party website for details of the proposed Conservative amendments to C-51, was this statement to Conservative party supporters, titled "Protecting Canadians from Terrorist Threats", released on the day C-51 was first announced, which reads in part:

Jihadist extremists are targeting Canada because of what we stand for. We are known around the world as a beacon of peace, democracy, and individual freedom. That stands in stark contrast to the totalitarian regime they seek to impose across the globe.
We will never sacrifice those rights and freedoms that define us in our quest to improve public safety. [emphasis theirs, not mine]
Prime Minister Harper and our Conservative government will always safeguard the constitutional rights of Canadians – of speech, association, religion, and other freedoms we cherish. This new legislation will come with a wide range of checks and balances to ensure those rights are respected.

Add your name to show your support for these important new measures to protect Canadians from the threats of terrorism.

Constitutional rights are (or at least, appear to me to be) extremely important to Conservative party supporters. Many of them seem to see themselves and the Conservative party as defenders of Canadian values against foreign threats and external dangers, and the Conservative party communication about bill C-51 is, and must necessarily remain, that it is a bill that defends our constitutional rights and Canadian values against terrorists who want un-Canadian things. But there is a very strong case that bill C-51 does in fact sacrifice individual freedoms and Charter-guaranteed rights (whether it improves public safety is a matter open to debate). Whatever your political persuasion, you should reach across to those who normally disagree with you, with those core values surrounding our freedoms as a common ground, to solidify opposition to this bill.

And if you just want to get the NDP or the Greens elected... if you talk to a conservative about C-51, it may be a window of opportunity:

The long-time Conservative party supporter and former volunteer said she is considering casting a vote for the New Democrats over the issue.
Fournier said the NDP is the only major party with a position on the bill that she can support.
"I feel like we're in some kind of alternate universe," she said. "You spend your life working for the Conservative party, and the Conservative party finally gets in, and [now] you're saying, 'I hope the NDP really steps up and protects us from our Conservative government.'" (source)
So to people of the political left: Go talk to people you wouldn't normally talk to about this. To the people of all political persuasions that may read this: when it comes to C-51, the "other side" is on your side.

The Amendments Proposed by Each Party

UPDATE: When first writing this post, I somehow missed the web page off of Elizabeth May's personal page, where the Green party's amendments are posted, only catching a news release on the Green Party site which described them in general terms. I have updated the link, and may update this post later today to include more details on their amendments. Their amendments are 73 pages long, however, so it could take some time.

Because the NDP and Conservatives haven't released the specific text of their proposed amendments, I have struggled to summarize and compare them in table form. Also, addressing each of Roach and Forcese's proposed amendments would make for a long table. Instead, I'll offer a party-by-party summary of their amendments, as best we can currently determine what they are based on public information. The amount of information we have is about to change significantly (I think...) because the clause-by-clause review of C-51 by the committee will start today.

Before I get into that: There are many aspects of bill C-51 which I haven't yet had a chance to write about, but which are of concern. To give everyone an idea of the concerns that amendments ought to address (without having to read a GIGANTIC amount of text) I offer the open letter that was submitted to all MPs, by over 100 university academics across Canada, mostly professors or assistant professors of law. It's only 6 pages, and well worth a read. Since this was sent to MPs on February 23rd, they or their staff have had plenty of time to read it, so if a party's amendments don't address a point raised, it is unlikely to be because they are unaware there's an issue.

Open letter

Conservative proposed Amendments:
Note: information about these proposals is from sources who wish to remain anonymous, because the Conservative party is not permitting members to discuss proposed amendments publicly.
4 items:

  • Remove "Lawful" from definition of "Activity that Undermines the Security of Canada"
  • Make it clear CSIS can't arrest people
  • Remove "to any person, for any purpose" from part 1 (information sharing)
    • Other limits to information sharing?
  • Removal of language that would allow the public safety minister to tell air carriers to do "anything" that is "reasonably necessary" to prevent a terrorist act.

Liberal proposed amendments (specific amendment wording with line numbers)
Unamended text of C-51 (to put the text line number references in context)

  • Creation of a parliamentary oversight committee that keeps track of CSIS activity as it is occurring (the Security Intelligence Review Committee only reviews CSIS activity up to a year after it has occurred).
  • Sunset clauses after 3 years
  • Review of CSIS use of disruption power after 1 year, with potential recommendations for changes
  • Exclusion of advocacy, protest and dissent in part 1 unless done in conjunction with activity classified as a threat to the security of Canada per the CSIS act.
  • Removal of the ability for CSIS to get a warrant to contravene the Charter (although CSIS can still get a warrant for breaking Canadian law)
  • Add a requirement for the Privacy Commissioner to submit a report annually on the use of Part 1 information sharing.
  • Remove "to any person, for any purpose" from part 1
  • Require the Security Intelligence Review Committee to review "all aspects" rather than "at least one aspect" of CSIS' use of its expanded powers, each year.
  • Require the SIRC report to be made before parliament (which is not currently a requirement. Under the CSIS act, a report is made to the minister, but there is no provision for this report to be seen by Parliament).

NDP proposed amendments

  • Remove CSIS disruption powers
  • Somehow remove definition of "Activity that undermines the security of Canada". Unclear how. Roach and Forcese have suggested substituting the existing definition of "threats to the security of Canada" from the CSIS act, into the information sharing portion of C-51, rather than introducing a broader concept for this Part.
  • Remove the lower threshold for preventative detention (currently C-51 proposes to allow preventative detention if it is reasonable to believe that someone "may" commit a terrorist act, rather than "will", as the current criminal code states)
  • Strengthen existing oversight of CSIS (not clear how - also, does not make the distinction between "review", which currently occurs in a very limited fashion, and "oversight", which does not. Quick fact: "review" is after-the-fact, "oversight" is before/while activity is ongoing.)
  • Adopting a system of parliamentary oversight
  • More action on deradicalization (deradicalization is thought of by many as more effective than criminalization, in efforts to stop potential terrorists from becoming actual terrorists)
  • 3 year sunset clauses
  • Narrowing the grounds for listing individuals on the no-fly list and providing an appeal process.

Green party proposed amendments

  • 60 amendments total proposed, covering all sections of the bill. Would effectively heed the call in the open letter to Parliamentarians that "C‐51 not be enacted in anything resembling its present form."

I hope to provide more analysis soon, either as an update to this post or as new posts, but here are some quick thoughts:

  • It is very good that whatever happens (even if the Conservatives accept no amendments from any other party), civil disobedience will not be a cause for information sharing, because the word "lawful" will be removed from the definition of "activity that undermines the security of Canada.
  • It is unfortunate that none of the parties (except, presumably, the Greens) have brought forward amendments addressing the vaguely worded new criminal offense around advocating terrorism.
  • It is VERY unfortunate that the Conservatives have chosen to include no reductions whatsoever to CSIS' proposed ability to do unconstitutional things, and no amendments to make the warrant process even slightly more palatable (still done at the discretion of CSIS, in secret, with no devil's advocate representing the person or group whose rights are to be ignored, no appeal process, no effective means of validating that the permission granted in the warrant was what was actually done, and no oversight, only extremely limited review. A post to come on how limited the review will be, unless amendments are accepted that change the status quo).
  • Arresting people isn't the same as detaining people. I am concerned that the wording around arrest will make it seem to the public like CSIS can't take people into custody and hold them there, potentially indefinitely (with a constitutional breach warrant), while leaving them the wiggle-room to still technically be able to do just that. We'll see. 
  • Creation of a parliamentary oversight committee is definitely a good idea, but the Hill Times is reporting that all attempts to increase oversight will be ruled out of order.
  • Sunset clauses would be great. Whether they are in or not, if the next government isn't Conservative, it should review this legislation (and probably will - the Liberals have said they will, and one assumes the NDP and Greens would do so as well).
  • It is surprising that the NDP's discussion of their proposed amendments is so vague. It seems to me to mostly overlap with the Liberals, as well. Which I think is good, because the Liberals are the swing vote, so the Conservatives may adopt some of their amendments to get them on-side.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Summary of Commentary in Hearings

Hi all:

A new resource that might be of interest, from

A bunch of students took C-51 and reviewed all of the committee hearings, and annotated (added text to) the text of the bill. So now you can see most of what people have said about the different sections of the bill. This is based just on what was said in the videos, not the additional written submissions that people might have made (like the Federal Privacy Commissioner, who wasn't allowed to speak but did make a written submission).

The documents in that link are in Word format. Here's a copy in PDF format, for those who don't have Microsoft Office on their computers:!29241&authkey=!AIYXS3E-_v2jdvo&ithint=folder%2cpdf

Friday, March 27, 2015

A Step in the Right (er... Correct) Direction

Newsflash: Anti-Terror Bill C-51 to be Scaled Back as Tories Respond to Criticism

I'll have to read what the amendments they are proposing are. All I know so far is what's in the CBC article linked above, which was published while I was at work. So I have no comment yet, except to say that up until now, I hadn't read any indication that the government was open to any sort of amendment. So this is a step in the right direction. And I do know that other bills the government has propsed over the past few years, which would have had privacy implications, have been dramatically scaled back after public pressure (or the supreme court ruling them unconstitutional). A future post will give you a few examples. I have half of it written, but then I realized that fact checking will take hours and it's 11PM and I want to get this post out.

I think what would be really useful is one of those comparison charts you often get for the free vs. "professional" version of software (like this), except like this:

Definition of “activities that undermine the security of Canada”

Removal of “lawful” to exempt all protest, including civil disobedience

Problem 3

Problem 4

to allow people to easily compare the amendments that are on the table.

But I haven't made that table yet. How I'm going to do it is to take this document from, make a list of all the suggestions it makes, and see which of them are covered in each of the partys' suggested amendment schemes. That could take a while, but there's a weekend, so I guess it'll be OK. If anyone who happens to be on the other side of the world and will be awake for the 8 hours or so that I'm soon going to be asleep, and wants to just do it for me and e-mail it to, that would be wonderful. If you can find details on what each of the parties are proposing. I know Elizabeth May (Green) is going to have hers out on Monday, but the Conservatives and the NDP seem to have theirs ready. (Note: I don't draw any negative conclusions from the fact that she didn't have amendments ready to go immediately. I'm really looking forward to seeing what Elizabeth May proposes. I was at a lecture where she was speaking earlier this week, and she talked about C-51 for a few minutes, and her comments were 100% accurate, and summarized the problems eloquently but in a way that was easy to understand. I was very impressed, and I think she understands this bill very well.)

A closing note: Just because the government is now open to amendments, doesn't mean victory for the people who have raised issues with this bill. It's just the first step in the right direction. But it's a big step, so that's good.