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.