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October 28, 2017 5:53 am

Dangerous new powers for federal government? – Part 1

Tuesday, February 10, 2015 @ 3:44 AM

By Peter Ewart

The Harper government is in the process of pushing through Parliament more “anti-terror” legislation which will further ramp up the power of the federal government and its security agencies.  Could all of this endanger the rights and freedoms of Canadians as a whole?

A number of political figures, journalists, civil libertarians, and even Establishment newspapers, such as the Globe and Mail and Toronto Star think so.  Many believe that this legislation is profoundly undemocratic, giving state intelligence agencies such as CSIS even more “secret police” powers at the expense of the civil liberties of Canadians.

Unfortunately, despite the fact that the cherished rights and freedoms of every Canadian are at stake here, the Harper government has provided no process or mechanism by which Canadians can discuss and provide input into this important issue, choosing, instead, to ram the legislation through a Parliament in which the main opposition parties, Liberals and NDP, appear to be cowed and intimidated (the exception is the Green Party and some Independent MPs).

What are some of the key concerns?  No one questions that there should be laws against terrorism.  But it is quite another thing, if these laws are drafted in such a way as to stifle and suppress the freedom of speech of Canadians, violate their right to privacy, and criminalize their legitimate political activity and protest.

Prime Minister Harper has declared that Canada is currently “at war” with Islamic terrorism and thus we need this new legislation.  However, there is a history in Canada of such “war time” legislation being commandeered by the federal government and used against the rights and freedoms of Canadians.  Perhaps the most notorious example of such draconian legislation is the “War Measures Act”, which was brought into being at the onset of the First World War.  At that time, among other things, this Act was used to unjustly deport, as well as intern in camps, thousands of Ukrainians and other Eastern European immigrants.

Then, over fifty years later, the Liberal government of Pierre Trudeau, resurrected the Act to suspend the rights of all Canadians during the FLQ crisis of 1970, resulting in thousands of raids by the army and police and the arrests of hundreds of Quebec nationalists and political activists, many of whom had nothing to do with the FLQ (which was already heavily infiltrated by the police) and who were ultimately released without charges.  As was noted years later by various observers, the actual main purpose for imposing the Act was to disrupt the Quebec sovereigntist movement.

And so it is that the Harper government’s new “anti-terror” legislation, along with other legislation since 9/11, could come back to haunt us, whether we are journalists, workers on strike, environmental activists, First Nations, immigrants, and even business people.

How is this the case?

First of all, the existing “anti-terror” legislation in the Criminal Code, as well as the government’s “Counter-terrorism Strategy” throws a very broad net as to who might be classified as a terrorist or what might constitute terrorist activity.  This net goes far beyond what is termed Islamic or Jihadist terrorism.  Indeed, environmental and anti-capitalist groups are specifically identified as potential threats.

However, the new “anti-terror” Bills C-44 and C-51 being rammed through by the Harper government throw an even broader net.  According to this legislation, if you, or the organization or company that you are associated with, are deemed by the federal government to be possibly “interfering with the economic and financial stability” of the country or undermining its security or “critical infrastructure,” you could be targeted by CSIS and other federal government security agencies.

The terminology of these Bills creates very broad categories that could encompass a wide range of activities that have nothing to do with “terrorism,” including civil disobedience, environmental protests against pipelines, First Nations blockades of disputed territory, strikes, boycotts, protests, political organizing, support for national liberation or independence struggles in other countries, media coverage and even business transactions.

The world is a complicated place and there are many complicated struggles.  Indeed, Canadians often have differing views on international issues.  However, under this new “anti-terror” legislation, if you happen to express support for one side or another in a civil war, national liberation struggle or other cause somewhere in the world which the Harper government claims to have something to do with possible “terrorism”, it may be that you could be prosecuted and jailed for up to five years.  For their part, media organizations could have computer equipment seized and websites shut down, not to speak of the chill on free speech.

Many, if not most, Canadians could fall under these broad categories, especially when it is taken into account that, under these new Bills, you or any organization you are associated with, do not have to be classified as terrorist to be a target for investigation.  Rather, all that is required is that you are simply classified as being “relevant” to an investigation in some way.  This, of course, allows enormous latitude for federal security agencies, and opens the door for wide-scale abuse.

And what kind of abuse might this new legislation foster?

If you are targeted for any of the vague reasons listed above or if you are deemed “relevant” in some way to an investigation, CSIS, the spy agency, could literally ransack your personal life without a warrant.  It could gather and share a wide range of personal and business information about you from other state agencies, including taxation, medical, financial, commercial, customs, and travel.  Furthermore, CSIS could trade your personal information like baseball cards with the spy agencies of foreign governments.

Even more troubling, the legislation explicitly states that CSIS will now be allowed to break Canadian law and violate the Charter of Rights & Freedoms, as well as break the law of other countries.  A judge’s warrant will be required, but how hard will it be to find a compliant or corrupt judge, considering that they are appointed by the government itself?

What limitations will be put on the activities of CSIS operatives within Canada?  They will not be allowed to kill or cause “bodily harm” to Canadian citizens or “violate their sexual integrity”, which presumably means they can’t rape citizens.  But everything else up to this, no matter how egregious and anti-democratic, appears to be fair game.

The legislation, by allowing CSIS to break the law and violate the civil rights of Canadians, opens the door to the official authorization by the federal government of a host of “dirty tricks,” such as planting false information, character assassination, breaking and entering into homes and businesses, installing bugging and surveillance devices, organizing entrapment plots, agent provocateur activity, and so on.  The list of dirty tricks is practically endless, with CSIS having the broad power to “disrupt” any activities that, by the federal government’s definition, “undermine the security of Canada.”

Four decades ago, under Liberal Party rule, a huge scandal broke out in Canada over similar dirty tricks by the RCMP, resulting in the MacDonald Commission on RCMP wrongdoing, which uncovered police agents planting bombs, burning down barns, and breaking into premises.   Almost 40 years later, under Harper’s Conservatives, here we are again – “back to the future”.

Part 2 of this series will discuss and give examples of how existing “anti-terror” and “security” legislation has already given rise to serious abuses, and how the new legislation, Bills C-44 and C-51 promises to ramp these abuses up even more.

Peter Ewart is a columnist and writer based in Prince George, British Columbia.  He can be reached at: peter.ewart@shaw.ca




Inclusive of review of blog sites as well?

With Joe Oliver calling opposition to Northern Gateway “eco-terrorists” , it is not hard to see where this legislation is coming from, or how it will be used. Let us hope that the majority of Canadians don’t get fooled by Harper yet again in the next election.

what a blowhard. IS would make a great justice minister.

They would actually be able to take some action other than waiting for the perp to commit the crime before they can act. How is that watch list thing working for us? Everyone wants them to do something … but not that …

Jordan went a bit “extreme” according to media outlets but maybe, just maybe, they did the right response for the situation

Oh, this time Peter does mention judicial oversite but it will be corrupt, oh my.

As for those eco terrorists he again leaves out the part that violence is threatened and no mention of the foreign funded NGO’s or their motives.

All cowed except the Greenparty.ca Trudeau , Mulcair fighting for our civil liberties ? In a pigs eye they are . The only faint hope is the Green Party . The rest of them want secret police . No wonder steve is so anxious to build more prisons in a falling crime rate era .

“The only faint hope is the Green Party.”


May is no better then Harper, Trudeau or Mulcair. She’s in politics for herself and for her friends. Was she going to try every riding in the country until she got herself elected?

The only hope we have is to get rid of the party system altogether and elect 308 independent people who will truly put their constituents first.

I’d also like a pony…

Ms. May is much better and brighter than the three others put together . Harper wants a secret police force , trudeau is onboard , Mulcair is just whinging . Then there is Ms. May ,who would rather advocate for our civil liberties than be cowed . What colour pony ? Part of the Green Party platform is proportional representation . I want to win the lotto . I think my chances of winning the lotto are better than getting PR in my lifetime but nothing ventured , nothing gained .

Ataloss, Do you not read or think??? We have had a secret police force for 100 years. We had it long before Harper was born, and we will have it long after he is gone. Guess what??? So do other Countries. Ever hear of the CIA, Mossad, KGB, etc; etc;

Ms. May can say anything she wants on any issue, because she is only one member, has no chance of ever forming a Government, and therefore it matters little who she knocks. She is a little whiner in a room full of whiners, and that’s about it.

If that’s what you think why would you care and or spend anytime writing about it at all . Yes I think and read a great deal . Have you seen spreeder.com you should try it . Then maybe you can keep up .

People all up in arms about this and not one word about the people vs central bank of canada, total blackout here. Good thing we still have 250 news.

Ataloss. Couple of quotes you might want to ponder.

**Words without action mean nothing**

**The one thing that is a bar against all learning, and will keep you in everlasting ignorance is contempt prior to investigation**

My advice to you is to read less, and do more.

The only action(s) that are avalible to us is to ,vote ,volunteer ,advocate and donate . I do all those things . What do you do? Yes I have utter contempt for anyone that wants to hurt canada and canadians from within or out . Thanks for that advise. It’s as useless as little Stevie blunder .

That’s news that is no news, X-it. The Bank of Canada has NEVER done what it theoretically ‘could’ do. And for good reason. It would be disastrous to our ‘rights and freedoms’ to a far greater degree than Harper’s anti-terrorist legislation might be if it ever did.

Ataloss. What do I do??

I try not to take advice from Couch Potatoes, Sidewalk Superintendents, or Armchair Quarterbacks.

Ditto . So don’t give me any kid .

Hmmm… my last comment disappeared, lets try the following quote from an infamous German leader again, which has everything to do with the subject of this article; namely the loss of individual rights and freedoms.

“The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible reductions. In this way, the people will not see those rights and freedoms being removed until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed.” ~A.H.

I sincerely hope this comment is allowed, or is there limited freedom of speech in this country already?

Australia just stopped a terrorist beheading operation in Sidney that was to happen the next day. What say you Peter.

cluestick. We have been losing freedoms a little at a time for quite some time.

We are now faced with Photo ID, driving under .08 driving under .05. Smoking with children under 15 in vehicle, seatbelts, booster seats, random road checks, license plates being fed into a computer system without our knowledge, bicycle helmets, photo radar, roadside suspensions, roadside justice, gun registry, camera’s in stores, service stations, intersections, sidewalks, etc; just to name a few.

That’s how its done, a little bit at a time,.

Some people would day that all these laws are a good thing, however I disagree.

There is a famous saying. The corruption level of a Government can be judged by the number of laws is passes.

Marcus Cirillo would more than likely disagree with you as well palopu

I hear you slinky . 700 k for the kid should give him the part of the the life his dad could have provided . What a gong show . The hill I mean . Totally inept . Can’t even stop a nutter with a gun and they are going to protect us by taking more of our civil rights because they dropped the ball .

Most all our MP’s now have PTSD from the lone nut on the hill and can’t think straight when the word terror is inserted into the debate about things like civil liberties. The failure of security left them feeling vulnerable and irreplaceable so now they are willing to sign into law just about anything Harper puts forward.

Without proper oversight, checks and balance type safe guards the abuse that can take place is a greater threat to our country and its democratic future than any terrorist plot could be.

Without a doubt this bill is designed by its very nature to put a chill on free speech and free thinking which is the life blood of our society. Rome fell when the Senate lost its power to an Emperor and the people lost their ability to debate politics in public, and France rose when they gained the ability to think freely. There is a lesson that runs a thread throughout history… but most conservatives are not free thinks so what would they know.

Harper is all about law and order, but what about the rule of constitutional law… that he wishes to pervert for partisan purposes under the guise of a war on terror. His legislation leaves Canada wide open to abuse from powers domestic and foreign that can gain control of our spy agencies.

Just about every newspaper editorial board has come out against this law

Globe and Mail:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper never tires of telling Canadians that we are at war with the Islamic State. Under the cloud of fear produced by his repeated hyperbole about the scope and nature of the threat, he now wants to turn our domestic spy agency into something that looks disturbingly like a secret police force. Canadians should not be willing to accept such an obvious threat to their basic liberties. Our existing laws and our society are strong enough to stand up to the threat of terrorism without compromising our values…

Ottawa Citizen:
There are many reasons to be appalled by the haphazard, overbearing and ill-defined provisions criminalizing the general promotion of terrorism that were presented by the federal Conservative government on Friday, but worst of all is the potential they have to actually increase the likelihood of radicalization and terrorism in Canada…

National Post:
When it comes to provisions banning “promoting” and “advocating” terrorism, furthermore, the threat to civil liberties may well not be minor. Neither term is defined. Where such laws exist, they tend to be abused…

A link to all of the above editorials


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