News from ICLMG

Bill C-59: Despite improvements, Canadian government misses opportunity for bold action on civil liberties and national security

miss the boatOttawa – The provisions of Bill C-59, the National Security Act, 2017, are a welcome break with the past, but fail to take the opportunity to move Canada in a bold new direction that would place civil liberties and human rights at the heart of the country’s security laws.

“Canadians have been adamant that human rights, civil liberties, accountability and transparency should be front and centre when we discuss our security,” said Tim McSorley, national coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG). “This was made clear in the government’s report on its own national security consultations, published in May. The creation of a new national security review agency is an incredibly welcome start. However, the government missed the mark on doing away once and for all with Bill C-51.”

The ICLMG has consistently called for the repeal of Bill C-51, which introduced multiple measures that eroded the Canadians’ right to privacy, freedom of expression, freedom of association, and did little to make the country a safer place.

However, the proposed creation of the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency, as well as an Intelligence Commissioner, could go a long way to adding transparency and accountability to agencies that – despite the efforts of current review bodies – have long operated in obscurity and without adequate accountability. “We believe this is a strong step toward protecting Canadians’ rights from over-reach of national security organizations, and will work to ensure that they are as strong as possible, including that both bodies receive the resources needed, and that they can make binding recommendations,” added McSorley.

Other beneficial aspects to the bill include the elimination of investigative hearings, a higher threshold for preventative arrests and issuing peace bonds, and replacing the controversial criminal violation of “promotion” of terrorism offences with the more robust “counselling” to commit a terrorism offence.

However, the government may have taken action to create stronger frameworks around both the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act (SCISA) and the Safe Air Travel Act (the no fly list), but the same concerns persist as when they were introduced with C-51. “The government has yet to prove the necessity or value of either intrusive law, and we continue to call for their repeal,” said McSorley. The ICLMG is also concerned that Bill C-59 appears to create a legal framework for CSIS to retain data on Canadians that was previously out of bounds, again without a reasonable explanation or justification for the expansion of these powers, as well as allows CSIS to maintain controversial disruption powers.

Finally the bill also remains silent on two concerning aspects of Canada’s national security laws: security certificates – which the ICLMG has called to be abolished – and the ministerial directives on torture. On the latter, Minister Goodale has repeated for more than a year that the directives – which allow Canada to use information that may have been obtained under torture as well as share information with governments that commit torture – are under review… only to now announce that they will be the subject of greater consultation. “Torture is torture, and is never acceptable,” said McSorley. “The government must end its foot-dragging and change the directives now.”

The ICLMG will continue to study the 150-page bill and will be issuing a more in-depth analysis over the coming weeks.

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Fundamental flaws will hinder work of National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, warns civil liberties watchdog

Canada_Parliament_BuildingsOttawa – “While Canada is in great need of a mechanism to allow parliamentarians to review national security activities, we are disappointed that the Senate did not take action to improve Bill C-22,” says Tim McSorley, national coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group. Bill C-22 passed third reading in the Senate on June 20, 2017. Once granted royal assent, it will establish the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.

“We have supported the goal and intention of Bill C-22 from the start. However, as it stands, fundamental flaws in this bill will hinder the ability of parliamentarians to properly investigate Canada’s national security activities,” adds McSorley.

The concerns include:

  • Committee members will not have access to all documents and information necessary to accomplish their work;
  • The Canadian government, including ministers and the Prime Minister’s Office, will have the power to block investigations on broad grounds of national security;
  • The Committee of Parliamentarians will not have the same power as parliamentary committees to compel people to appear and for documents to be provided (a solution here would be to transform the Committee of Parliamentarians into a Special Joint Parliamentary Committee);
  • The committee cannot seek judicial review of government decisions that would restrict the committee’s access to information, deny their ability to carry out specific investigations, or block sections of committee reports from being made public.

The ICLMG will continue to advocate for reforms to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians and hopes to work hand-in-hand with committee members to ensure greater accountability and transparency in Canada’s national security activities.

To read ICLMG’s complete brief on Bill C-22, visit http://iclmg.ca/wp-content/uploads/sites/37/2014/03/Brief-C-22-ICLMG-SENATE-COMMITTEE-final.pdf.

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Preclearance Agreement Trumps Protection of Travelers from Canada to US

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Amendments to protect rights of travelers to the US and ensure accountability of preclearance officers rejected at Committee: “Our hands are tied.”

Ottawa, June 15, 2017 — Civil liberties groups are expressing shock that Canadian MPs say they are unable to strengthen protections when traveling to the US because of an agreement signed between the countries’ governments.

“Regardless of a document signed between two countries, if you believe that the rights of Canadians are being weakened, you must do something about it,” says Tim McSorley, national coordinator of the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG).

The reaction follows the final review of Bill C-23, the Preclearance Act, 2016, by the House of Commons Public Safety Committee on Wednesday night.

Civil liberties and human rights advocates have raised multiple concerns about C-23, warning it will grant too much power to US officers operating in Canada, with absolutely no mechanism for accountability unless their actions cause death, bodily harm or damage to property. The Preclearance Act, 2016, will allow US officers to strip search a traveler, even if a Canadian agent declines to do so; allow US officers to carry firearms; and remove the ability of travelers to withdraw from preclearance areas without further interrogation.

While various motions were moved at the committee to address the most severe problems that civil liberties and human rights experts have highlighted, they were systematically voted down. Often, the justification given by the majority was that C-23 must adhere to the provisions of the Agreement On Land, Rail, Marine, And Air Transport Preclearance, finalized without public scrutiny by the Canadian and US governments in early 2015.

At one point, a Liberal member of the committee stated that their “hands are tied” because of the deal negotiated by the Harper and Obama era governments.

“It’s disappointing that an agreement that did not receive any real public scrutiny or debate is now being approved without genuine opportunities for elected representatives to ensure our rights are protected when traveling,” says Ihsaan Gardee, executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM).

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