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- CSIS’s threat reduction mandate was the subject of extensive public debate during the passage of Bill C-51, which became the ATA, 2015. Given the nature of the threats facing Canada, what scope should CSIS have to reduce those threats?
We would first ask that the government define and quantify the threats referred to. In order to justify changes in CSIS’ mandate and activities, we must first understand whether they are proportional to the threat to be addressed. To date, neither the government nor CSIS have presented compelling evidence in this regard. On the other hand, statistics continue to show that violent crime in Canada (in general) is decreasing. There have been two attacks classified as terrorism on our soil, and reports of approximately 160 people traveling to allegedly fight along-side Daesh. If this is the extent of the threat, we do not see the proportionality in granting new powers. Violence against women, again, is a much more prevalent threat and we see little action to substantially address this issue. We believe we need more justice, not more police powers.
Furthermore, giving CSIS threat reduction powers brings us back 40 years when the RCMP broke into and entered Parti Québécois (PQ) offices to steal members list, burned a barn, and put out counterfeit Front de Libération du Québec (FLQ) press releases in order to counter the separatist threat. One of the objectives in creating CSIS was precisely to put an end to such inacceptable acts in a democratic society. The role of CSIS must be limited to intelligence. The security of Canadians rests on the enforcement of the Criminal Code by the police.
- Are the safeguards around CSIS’s threat reduction powers sufficient to ensure that CSIS uses them responsibly and effectively? If current safeguards are not sufficient, what additional safeguards are needed?
Documents made public in 2014 (Toronto Star, 2014/09/18) revealed that since 2006, 800 demonstrations and events had been subjected to the scrutiny of government agencies and departments. The range of events that were targeted was very broad and were typical of a vibrant democratic society. They included a union demonstration, a public forum on the tar sands, a workshop on civil disobedience, a vigil on disappeared and murdered Indigenous women, and a fishermen’s demonstration in the Maritimes. The threat reduction powers given to CSIS by ATA 2015 are a threat to the rights and freedoms of Canadians and must be revoked. Furthermore CSIS intelligence gathering must not target Charter protected activities such as the ones mentioned above. Sections 12.1 and 12.2 of the CSIS Act should be revoked.
- The Government has committed to ensuring that all CSIS activities comply with the Charter. Should subsection 12.1(3) of the CSIS Act be amended to make it clear that CSIS warrants can never violate the Charter? What alternatives might the Government consider?
A recent Federal Court decision concluded that CSIS had engaged in illegal bulk collection and retention of data on Canadians. The Court also concluded that CSIS had not shown candor in carrying out its mandate. The real priority is ensuring that CSIS respects Canadians’ protected rights while fulfilling its mandate. Clearly, existing mechanisms are inadequate to insure CSIS compliance with the Charter and an independent review body capable of examining all the government agencies involved in national security is absolutely necessary.