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Don’t let the police steal Canada’s National Security Debate

A RCMP cruiser sits parked on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 28, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Matthew Usherwood


By Tim McSorley, National Coordinator, International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group

When it comes to national security – rules governing everything from when you can be arrested to when the government can spy on your email – the RCMP feels that its voice and the voices of other law enforcement agencies aren’t being heard in the government’s public consultation on national security, which runs online until the end of this day, December 15.

« So far, [the debate] appears to be driven very much from one side, which is those that would like more privacy and more anonymity, » RCMP Chief Supt. Jeff Adam told the CBC and Toronto Star in November. The interview was part of a joint series on how police feel they are losing the tech race to criminals who they say are “going dark” behind encryption – a claim that has been heavily disputed, even by the Star’s editorial board.

While the RCMP feels its voice isn’t being heard, as soon as the online consultation was published, human rights and privacy organizations cried foul. They pointed to leading questions, hypothetical scenarios provided without evidence, and a questionable background document that all seemed to lay out an argument not only in support of the most problematic powers introduced in Bill C-51, but for bringing in concerning new police powers as well.

Could something so weighted towards police powers have truly excluded the police? As Vice Canada reporter Justin Ling has shown, it would appear law enforcement’s voice has been there all along.

A memo from last February shows that as far back as last winter, the RCMP was strategizing on getting new powers. In the memo, they lay out their plan for creating a “new public narrative” around national security, including four themes that weigh heavily on the framing of the national security consultation. As Ling explains it, they are:

  1. A lack of interception hardware on Canadian telecommunication networks,
  2. The use of encryption to protect communications,
  3. The deletion of user data by companies,
  4. And the inability to obtain users’ data hosted in some foreign countries.

Even a casual read of the consultation and supporting documents reveal how important these four perceived concerns are to the government.

So really, there was no need to have major media grant them a platform: police voices were already at the heart of the process.

So how can we make sure we swing the balance back?

Until the end of this day, December 15th, anyone can share their thoughts by filling out the online consultation, or by sending an email to ps.nsconsultation-consultationsn.sp@canada.ca.

Whether you want to call on the government to once and for all “kill Bill C-51” or want to dig into the nuances of how banks report suspicious financial transactions to the government, now is your chance!

At the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG), we think there are a lot of reasons to share your concerns, including:

  • Undoing new laws that threaten freedom of expression under the guise of limiting the promotion of terrorism
  • Protecting our right to privacy from new rules that give government agencies unprecedented power to share our private information between themselves and with foreign authorities
  • Preventing police and spy agencies from obtaining new powers that would violate our privacy, including obtaining Basic Subscribers Information (BSI) without a warrant, weakening encryption, intercepting a vast array of our communications, and forcing telecom companies into bulk data retention.
  • Bringing in a greater, integrated and independent review mechanism for all of Canada’s national security bodies. Right now only three out of twenty have independent review, and they are forced to work in silos, unable to examine the work of other agencies even when operations overlap.
  • Repealing the no-fly list which has proven ineffective and resulted in an untold number of false positives – including over 50 children.
  • Ensuring the government focuses on reducing all forms of violence and increasing equality for all communities, rather than further marginalizing Muslim, Arab and other racialized communities.

Many of the questions are technical and obscure, and not everyone is a national security expert. That’s why the ICLMG, along with several other groups, have put together guides to help decipher and answer the questions.

You can find our responses here: http://iclmg.ca/issues/our-answers-to-the-national-security-online-consultation/. Feel free to re-use and adapt them for your own answers.

The government has said it wants to hear from us. And the only way to make sure our voices are heard loud and clear is by sending in as many messages by the end of the day. Together, we can make sure to do away with invasive spying and the criminalization of dissent and put our laws to work protecting civil liberties and human rights.

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. Any donations will go a long way to support our work.

On the fence about giving? Check out our Achievements and Gains since we were created in 2002. Thank you for your generosity! 

Stop Mohamed Harkat’s deportation to torture – Let’s keep up the pressure!


Read ICLMG’s letter urging Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale to exempt Mohamed Harkat from deportation and let him stay and live with his wife and family in Canada.

The following is a request written by Sophie Harkat, Mohamed Harkat’s spouse.

Dear supporter,

As you probably know by now, Mohamed Harkat (detained under a security certificate since Dec. 2002) faces deportation to torture. He was issued his inadmissibility letter during the federal election campaign and under the leadership of the Liberals, the CBSA is still pushing through with his deportation. They stated in their report that Mohamed has not been an active contributing member of society, has not financially helped his family and that I would be fine without him (never mind the fact he was detained by force for 43 months without charge, on house arrest for 7.5 years under the toughest bail conditions in Canadian history , still prevented from using technology/computer/internet/cell phone outside the home and his name ruined by allegations) Mohamed held three jobs before he was arrested and has actively been looking for full time work.

The report also agrees he might face risks if deported to Algeria, but that Canadians face more risks if he remains in Canada.

Over a thousand supporters wrote letters this past winter (THANK YOU!!), but there has been no movement at their end.


Since then, some important decisions have been made:

1- The Liberals have agreed to sign the UN Optional Protocol Against Torture

2- The UK refuses to deport 8 Algerian men back to Algeria because they face being tortured/detention or risks to their safety

3- The US government has concluded that diplomatic assurances are not reliable and that they cannot keep track of the detainee once the transfer is completed. Many detainees have been tortured.

Let’s ask the Liberals, why are they going ahead with the deportation then?

PLEASE take one minute to email the letter below.

Thank you for your support, solidarity and generosity!

Sophie Harkat, wife of Mohamed Harkat who thinks Mohamed is an asset to this society, and would be a GREAT Canadian; he has a huge network of friends and family that love him and want him to stay in Canada!

If you want to help with legal fees (we get no legal aid), you can do so at www.justiceforharkat.com


Send to ralph.goodale@parl.gc.ca and john.mccallum@parl.gc.ca and copy  letharkatstay@gmail.com

Dear Minister Goodale and Minister McCallum,

In the spirit of the Liberals recent stated intention to sign the UN Optional Protocol Against Torture, we urge you to comply with Article 2 of the Convention Against Torture (“No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political in stability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.”) and Article 3 (No State Party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.”

We bring this to your attention because of Canada’s ongoing efforts to deport Mr. Mohamed Harkat – who has lived in Canada for 20 years – to Algeria, where it is clear that he would be at substantial risk of torture both as someone who fled that country as a refugee and given the false state security allegations that have been leveled against him. As you are likely aware, Mr. Harkat has been subjected to the Kafka-esque secret hearing process known as a security certificate, and has never had a proper opportunity to challenge and refute the secret allegations that form the basis of the case against him, and which rely on a secret informant who failed a lie detector test.

Needless to say, even state security agencies such as CSIS and the RCMP concede Mr. Harkat has never committed any act of violence nor violated any law (passed his criminal background check).  All of the risk assessments done by the CBSA and CSIS since 2009 have been positive and concluded that Mohamed is a low risk.

We also draw your attention to a recent Appeals Court case in the UK in which Sir Anthony Clarke, Lord Justice Buxton, and Lady Justice Smith refused to deport eight men to Algeria despite the so-called “diplomatic assurances” that they would not be tortured by the Algerian regime. International human rights organizations including Amnesty International have long highlighted that “diplomatic assurances” in human rights cases  are not worth the paper they are written on. In addition, they violate Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention Against Torture, to which Canada remains a signatory.




Canadian groups call on the government to uphold the right to dissent

Today we join our voices together to express our deep concern about the Opposition motion that condemns the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

We are strongly committed to democratic rights and freedoms for all Canadians. The right of dissent is enshrined in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Any attempt to criminalize, condemn, intimidate or silence peaceful and nonviolent actions of individuals and groups that support or sympathize with the BDS movement, should be rejected.

Criticizing or opposing Canada’s policies and/or a foreign country’s policies should not be condemned: it is the essence of our freedom and democracy. We remain committed to these principles and we call on our government to commit to them.

Canadian Friends Service Committee (Quakers)

Canadian Labour Congress (CLC)

Canadian Union for Public Employees (CUPE)

Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW)

Independent Jewish Voices (IJV)

International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (ICLMG)

Ligue des droits et libertés (LDL)

United Church of Canada (UCC)


Tell your MP you oppose the anti-Boycott motion!

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