News from ICLMG

Open Letter to the Federal Government on C-59: New National Security Bill Fails to Reverse C-51 And Introduces Serious New Problems

5023-07-parliamentOttawa — Today, over 40 organisations and individuals from across Canadian civil society issued a joint letter to government that lays out overarching concerns with Bill C-59, An Act respecting national security matters. Bill C-59 makes some meaningful and necessary improvements to Canada’s national security regime, but it fails to reverse the legacy of its unpopular predecessor, Bill C-51, and introduces serious new problems. It specifically falls short in mitigating the discriminatory impact national security activities continue to have on vulnerable minorities, which has in the past included conduct that contributed to the torture of Canadians.

The signatories all share the concern that — despite the message clearly delivered by Canadians during the federal government’s extensive public consultation on national security — the rights and freedoms guaranteed in the Charter are still not where they belong, at the core of Canada’s national security framework.

“Since 9/11, our disproportionate fear of terrorism has been used to slowly increase the powers of intelligence and security agencies without proof that these powers are necessary to keep us safe, and with always greater risks and impact on our civil liberties. This is called the national security creep,” says Tim McSorley, the National Coordinator for the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group. “We must not allow C-59 to continue this dangerous and damaging trend.”

Bill C-59 introduces some improvements to our national security framework, while reversing some, but certainly not all, of former Bill C-51’s excesses. It creates important new bodies to review and control national security activities; introduces a detailed and explicit new law for Canada’s signals intelligence agency, the CSE; adds new protections for the rights of youth involved in terrorism-related offences; and reforms the terrorist speech offences introduced by Bill C-51.

The signatories also identify a number of specific aspects of Bill C-59 which we agree require serious attention and meaningful change, including:

  • The newly-renamed Security of Canada Information Disclosure Act still permits departments to disclose far too much information in their pursuit of questionable security objectives;
  • The no-fly list still lacks adequate due process while proposed redress mechanisms remain unfunded;
  • The bill fails to reverse the low threshold Bill C-51 set for terrorism peace bonds;
  • The preventative detention powers introduced in 2001 are still in place and remain deeply problematic;
  • The risk for abuse of CSIS disruption powers is reduced, but the government has yet to demonstrate either their necessity or constitutionality;
  • The newly created oversight agencies lack the guarantees necessary to ensure their effectiveness;
  • The general risk that our security activities will once again contribute to torture remains;
  • CSE “active” cyber security powers (i.e. offensive hacking) are introduced without a rationale for their necessity or measures to adequately prevent abuse;
  • The new bill fails to reverse the erosion of due process C-51 extended in security certificate proceedings; and
  • The bill legitimizes troubling conduct, including mass surveillance by our foreign intelligence agency and extensive data-mining.

ICLMG also wishes to highlight these additional problems with C-59:

  • Information-sharing in particular could disproportionally affect Muslim and Arab communities, Indigenous land and water protectors, and political and environmental activists (e.g. BDS supporters) under SCIDA, even with the changes to the definition of a threat to national security.
  • Surveillance and criminalization of dissent is an ongoing concern made even bigger with CSIS new powers and recent allegations of discrimination.
  • The bill leaves intact the possibilities of refoulement to countries where there are risks of torture and the ministerial directives on torture, although the latter have been under review since February 2016.
  • The creation of new review bodies should not be incumbent on the acceptance of new spying and hacking powers. The two should be considered and debated independently.
  • Finally, it would be useful to involve civil society, notably ICLMG, in the appointment process of the NSIRA members – to ensure the diversity, efficiency and transparency of the agency.

The letter discusses these issues, and more, in greater detail. Read the full letter here.

Here is what our members and other signatories have to say about Bill C-59:

“Bill C-59 improves on some, but certainly not all, of the troubling human rights problems that were at the heart of C-51. It also gives rise to new concerns and fails to address longstanding human rights failings that predate C-51. Human rights should be the very foundation to how Canada protects and delivers national security; with C-59 it is clear that there is still more work to be done to get us there.” – Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada

“Some of the most egregious aspects of C-51 have been tamed, but the new bill still leave a lot to be desired. From no-fly lists to CSIS ‘disruption’ powers, there are many provisions that will need to be amended before C-59 passes.” – Vincent Gogolek Executive Director of the BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association.

“We’re concerned that Canadians will see the positive aspects of this Bill, such as strengthened oversight of security agencies, and not notice the intrusive powers that it keeps or even strengthens – powers which will dangerously erode civil liberties.” – Kevin Malseed, Inter Pares

“Bill C-59 brings forward important and useful changes to Canada’s existing anti-terrorism laws, but it leaves us with ongoing concerns about the lack of due process around the no-fly list and the strengthening and deepening of CSIS powers, given the damage the spy agency has done to Canadian Muslims. Well known Canadian Muslims have been discriminatorily profiled and rendered to torture by Canada for no reason other than their faith and identity. At the same time, Canadian Muslims have been subject to rising hate crimes and violent attacks by individuals for the same reason. National security policy that is incapable of protecting all Canadians equally is not worthy of our endorsement, even if it is a significant improvement over more odious previous legislation.” – Ihsaan Gardee, Executive Director, NCCM – National Council of Canadian Muslims

“Major parts of Bill C-51 were contrary to the Constitution and common sense. With some improvements in Bill C-59, we are no longer at rock bottom lows for deprivations of our fundamental freedoms. However, amendments that only scratch the surface of oversight of agencies with unprecedented powers will not suffice. More safeguards and accountability measures against abuse of power are required.” – Faisal Mirza, Chair of the Canadian Muslim Lawyers Association

“All Canadian laws must comply with the Charter. Bill C-59 tries harder than its predecessor, but fails to fix some of the unconstitutional elements CCLA contested in our challenge of Bill C-51. Troublingly, C-59 also allows intelligence agencies to engage in conduct that threatens freedom of expression, freedom of association, privacy, and public safety. The government has taken a first step, but a great deal more is needed. Canada must get it right on national security.” – Cara Zwibel, Acting General Counsel, Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA)

“While Bill C-59 contains many positive changes, including reforming the unconstitutional “terrorist speech” crime, it unnecessarily extends the powers of Canada’s spy agencies in ways that could seriously undermine our privacy and free expression rights.” – Tom Henheffer, Executive Director, Canadian Journalists for Free Expression (CJFE)

“Now that Parliament is returning, we are eager to see the government commit to improving the reforms brought about in Bill C-59, in line with the concerns expressed by Canadians throughout the government’s own consultation. In particular, we need to see mass surveillance devices such as Stingrays and extensive information sharing provisions addressed, as well as legislative protections for encrypted communication technologies.” – Laura Tribe, Executive Director, OpenMedia

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. Here at ICLMG, we are working very hard to protect and promote human rights and civil liberties in the context of the so-called “war on terror” in Canada. We do not receive any financial support from any federal, provincial or municipal governments or political parties.

You can become our patron on Patreon and get rewards in exchange for your support. You can give as little as $1/month (that’s only $12/year!) and you can unsubscribe at any time. Any donations will go a long way to support our work.panel-54141172-image-6fa93d06d6081076-320-320You can also make a one-time donation or donate monthly via Paypal by clicking on the button below. On the fence about giving? Check out our Achievements and Gains since we were created in 2002. Thank you for your generosity!
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We did it! What now?

It’s been a busy summer, but we wanted to take some time to reflect both on what we’ve accomplished over the past year, as well as the important work that still needs to be done – hopefully with your help!

THE VICTORIES

  • The results of the federal government’s national security consultation were unequivocally in favour of our positions.
  • The government plans on creating a new overarching review agency for all national security activities – something we have advocated for since 2006.
  • The government has finally settled multiple cases with torture victims. The ICLMG, along with other human rights groups, campaigned alongside these survivors for several years.
  • Citizenship equality was restored with the adoption of Bill C-6; the ICLMG was one of the first organizations to speak out when the Conservative government weakened citizenship in 2014.

For more details, check out our Achievements and Gains page!

With continuous support, we could secure many more victories! This is why we created a page on Patreon. Patreon is a platform where people can support people and organizations in exchange for rewards so they can do their work sustainably and freely without having to rely on corporate sponsors. You can give as little as $1 per month (that’s just $12 per year!) and you can unsubscribe at any time. We hope you’ll become an ICLMG patron and support our work!

THE WORK AHEAD

While we have had successes, there are still major challenges ahead, and we have our work cut out for us.

The Trudeau government has presented Bill C-59 as their way to fix the tremendous problems caused by the dangerous and useless Anti-terrorism Act of 2015 (also known as Bill C-51). But C-59 is a complex omnibus bill that will bring in a wide array of changes. To fully grasp what’s in it, we need to do a full analysis and work with other experts across the country. What is clear already though: C-59 does not repeal Bill C-51, and even proposes to give new powers to Canada’s spy agencies.

We need your help to ensure Bill C-59 will protect our human rights!

Beyond C-59, we will continue our work on several other campaigns, including:

  • The release of Hassan Diab from jail in France
  • Justice for Mohamed Harkat who risks deportation to torture
  • The removal of the torture memos
  • A public inquiry into Canada’s role in the torture of Afghan detainees
  • The protection of privacy and bodily integrity at the border
  • Ending the no-fly list and the “terrorist” entities list
  • Analyzing the impact of “counter-radicalization” plans on our rights
  • Protecting freedom of expression, freedom of the press and the right to dissent, and more.

We do not receive any funding from any federal, provincial or municipal governments or political parties so we need your support to continue our work. If you’d rather not use Patreon, or would prefer to make a one-time donation, click on the button below.
Screen Shot 2017-09-06 at 5.28.07 PMThank you for your investment in protecting our civil liberties!

Anne & Tim

VIDEO: Guantanamo meets Hollywood: The case of Ammar al Baluchi

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Amidst speculation about whether the new US administration will move to fill up Guantanamo’s cells rather than close it down for good, the case of Ammar al Baluchi illustrates everything that is wrong with the ongoing detention and trial regime. Raashid Williams, Ammar Al-Baluchi’s defense counsel, was in Ottawa to discuss Al-Baluchi’s case and the human rights issues around Guantanamo Bay prison.

The talk taught us a lot about the kafkaesque universe of Guantanamo – it will blow you away!

If you were unable to attend, we have filmed the presentation and the following Q&A. Please share in your networks so that people are informed of what is happening in Gitmo!

The presentation was co-sponsored by the ICLMG, Octopus Books, and Amnesty International.


About Raashid Williams:

Maj. Raashid Williams is defense counsel for one of Guantánamo’s “high value” detainees Ammar Al-Baluchi.

About Ammar al Baluchi:

“The result of over classification is that my memories are classified, my thoughts are classified, my pain and suffering is classified, my post torture (post trauma) symptoms are classified.” Ammar al Baluchi, December 2015

Taken into custody in Pakistan in April 2003, Ammar al Baluchi was subjected to enforced disappearance in secret CIA custody until he was transferred to Guantánamo in early September 2006. He currently faces an unfair trial before the military commission for an alleged role in the 9/11 attacks. During his three and a half years in CIA custody he was held in a number of locations, the identity of which remain classified Top Secret. The countries in which “black sites” operated by the CIA were located during the time that Ammar al Baluchi was in CIA custody are believed to have included Afghanistan, Poland, Romania, Morocco, and Lithuania.

While the details about his treatment in CIA custody were withheld from Ammar’s legal team, they may have been shared by the CIA with the makers of the 2012 Hollywood film, Zero Dark Thirty. A draft CIA document released under Freedom of Information Act notes that the film “includes several interrogation scenes the first of which is an interrogation of a character who is modelled after Ammar al-Baluchi”. As an article in Time Magazine put it in 2013, “the first 25 or so minutes of the film are largely taken up with torture: Ammar is strung up, beaten, waterboarded and kept awake for 96 hours straight”. According to the scriptwriter’s initial email contact with the CIA’s Office of Public Affairs, “we intend to make accuracy and authenticity hallmarks of the production, for we believe that this is one of those rare instances where truth really is more interesting than fiction”. The matter is currently before US courts.

About Guantanamo:

There are 41 detainees still in Guantánamo. Five are cleared for transfer to third countries while over 20 remain in the legal limbo of continued indefinite wartime detention.

Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. Here at ICLMG, we are working very hard to protect and promote human rights and civil liberties in the context of the so-called “war on terror” in Canada. We do not receive any financial support from any federal, provincial or municipal governments or political parties.

You can become our patron on Patreon and get rewards in exchange for your support. You can give as little as $1/month (that’s only $12/year!) and you can unsubscribe at any time. Any donations will go a long way to support our work.panel-54141172-image-6fa93d06d6081076-320-320You can also make a one-time donation or donate monthly via Paypal by clicking on the button below. On the fence about giving? Check out our Achievements and Gains since we were created in 2002. Thank you for your generosity!
make-a-donation-button

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