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 c512015commentary@gmail.com

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: https://openparliament.ca/committees/public-safety/ 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 opennewbrunswicklegislature.ca 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.