In trying to write this column, I had to do a lot of research. A lot. I carefully dissected each of the five major sections of Bill C-51, as well as looked into how each section would affect and change consequential Acts already established.
My overall opinion of it is that we do not need this legislation, and that it is giving more power to an already partially unchallenged and ignorant government.
I’m no expert, but I’m not uninformed. I have picked apart this proposal and found overall there is too much unaccounted and unregulated power being doled out.
I won’t get into too much detail about the Bill itself simply because I don’t have the space to dissect it in print the way that I have at my desk. Looking at the official summary, some flags are raised.
The Bill is separated into five parts: enacting the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, enacting the Secure Air Travel Act, amending the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
Part of the Bill is also revising a number of other Acts, including the Canada Evidence Act, the Customs Act and the Youth Criminal Justice Act to name a few.
Essentially, with the introduction of the two new Acts, Bill C-51 (also known as the Anti-Terrorism Bill 2015) radically changes the existing policies on the way our government collects, uses and distributes information anonymously collected through the CSIS.
With the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, it provides a lot of power for government agencies to dig into people’s emails, phone calls, associations, etc. all under the suspicion of terrorism.
I use that word cautiously because nearly every time I hear someone use it, it’s in an ill-informed, scared perception. Theoretically, you have a higher chance of dying on your drive to work than by an act of terrorism.
CSIS already has enough power and authority to send people to prison based on emails, text messages, private tax information and history, financial history, phone conversations. So why do they need more?
Each year the SIRC publishes an annual review, complete with a list of recommendations for CSIS to follow. On the list from 2013/2014, the most recently published, a common theme through the recommendations are to keep more accurate archives and that the unit improve its information management.
That is CSIS being told that they need to better manage and organize their intake of sensitive information. Also, CSIS was told by SIRC to, “Strive to ensure that reporting to the Minister of Public Safety be done in a formal and systematic manner.”
To me, those few instances alone show the possibility for abuse if CSIS gains more power and the permission to be even more secretive.
If anyone is reading this and thinking, “Well the news said that terrorists just said that they were going to attack West Edmonton Mall. What about that?”
As a person who can’t put faith in conspiracy theories and who has to double-check everything, I still think the circulation of that news and the severity with which it was presented was careless. Maybe if the word terrorism wasn’t thrown around so easily, people could take it more seriously.
What it really comes down to for me is that this Bill has so many implications that might not be seen until later. If the government misses a tragic event that might have been preventable, we know for sure this will come up.
But in all reality and in my opinion, these events aren’t becoming more prevalent – they are becoming more accessible to the public through social media and the instant exposure that terrorist organizations can receive.
The Bill just has too many holes and does not show an adequate framework for responsibility and accountability. There is too much secrecy and far too many chances for the rights and freedoms of people who are not even remotely involved in terrorist organizations to be affected.