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Canada's Bill C-51: A Bitter Reality

Stephen Harper

Stephen Harper's Bill C 51 will render the sacrifice of 45,000 Canadian soldiers that died in World War II meaningless. Canada is quietly slipping away from a century (plus) of protecting and cultivating freedom and democracy into a nightmare of state control and tyranny. This maneuver is accomplished in part by Harper's proposed bill to Parliament.

The bill clears the way for the Canadian state under CSIS and the RCMP to abuse Canadian citizens in a vast variety of ways with impunity. Judges themselves will be bound to violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We shall examine here several of the tenets of the bill to adequately contemplate a portion of the impact it may have on Canadians.

The excess of latent tyranny that is held in this bill is not explicit and that is the problem. The more nebulous the legal language, the more power granted the state to have its way with citizenry. A term like 'terrorist' or 'extremist' cannot be pinned down. What may be considered extreme at one time may be normal at a later time.

What is considered terrorism by one individual or culture (e.g. Egypt) is considered democratic expression by somebody else. In other words, the bill is wholly reliant on subjective interpretations of its meaning. This is extremely dangerous considering the granting of warrants is done in secret between CSIS and a judge that is now compelled to rubber stamp the request for the warrant.

A crucial consideration in all this is the power it grants to potential fascistic minded governors in the future. The power granted the government paves the way for a police state where civil disobedience, protest, strikes, and even spoken dissent are criminalized. Moreover, the bill itself contains the implicit threat of being deemed an enemy of the state which undoubtedly will silence dissent.

According to lawyers Clayton Ruby and Nadar R. Hasan, in an analysis for the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the proposed bill curtails CSIS and the RCMP in the following ways;

In taking measures to reduce a threat to the security of Canada, the Service shall not:

(a) cause, intentionally or by criminal negligence, death or bodily harm to an individual;

(b) wilfully attempt in any manner to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice; or

(c) violate the sexual integrity of an individual.


RELATED: Bill C-51: A Legal Primer


And that is it. These are the boundaries placed before a future spook that may want to start a nefarious relationship with you.

The authors also point out, “Under the warrant provision, a judge may issue a warrant if satisfied that there are reasonable grounds to justify the belief that the requested measures are required to enable CSIS “to reduce a threat to the security of Canada,” and are “reasonabl[e] and proportiona[te].” This is an odd standard, which judges will find difficult, if not impossible, to apply. The ordinary standard for issuance of a warrant is based on reasonable grounds to believe that a criminal offence has been committed (in the case of a warrant to arrest) or reasonable grounds to believe that the search of a place will afford evidence of an offence (in the case of a search pursuant to judicial warrant).

These are determinations that can be made objectively, based on the evidence, by an impartial judicial officer. By contrast, whether a given measure would proportionately “reduce the threat to the security of Canada” is not like these other tests. It amounts to asking judges to look into a crystal ball to determine if Canada will be safer in the future if a CSIS officer takes some measure. This is not a determination that judges are equipped to make. The limits will vary with the judges chosen by CSIS, not with the evidence.”

Preventive Arrest

Nothing could be more an affront to the objective, rational legal tenets that have been fought for and fine-tuned since the Magna Carta had taken its first tentative step into modern free societies in 1215 where citizens were granted the right to a fair trial. It was our first legacy of protection against the arbitrary use of power. From the Magna Carta:

“No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgment of his equals or by the law of the land.

To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”

Here we are in 2015 and Stephen Harper cannot even respect the quality of freedom provided to citizens almost 1000 years ago. His bill contains provisions for 'preventive arrest'.

In order to live in a free society, we need to abide by certain principles that we have become so accustomed to and unfortunately we take them for granted. Those principles may have been noticed by us when we would like police to lock up a known threat to the community but instead, must put up with that threat until the threatening person actually commits a crime. A woman may know, for sure, that her husband is about to kill her.

Nothing more than a peace bond can protect her. That is the price we pay and it is the price we have always paid to live in freedom. As Mr. Ruby and Mr. Hasan point out, “Preventive detention—i.e., detention on the suspicion that someone may or will commit a crime at some point in the future—is the opposite of that legal tradition and is inconsistent with the constitutionally protected right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.” Under the bill, you may be arrested should authorities deem you suspicious.

Under current law, an individual may be arrested prior to actually committing the act if there are grounds to believe a terrorist act will be carried out. The new legislation replaces the word 'will' with the word 'may'. That simple change alters our universe. It will move Canada from the world of free and democratic societies and crosses a line and on the other side of that line are Saudi Arabia, fascism, and totalitarianism.

Again, Mr. Ruby and Mr. Hasan:

“Bill C-51 also substitutes “likely” for “necessary” such that s. 83.3(2) would now enable a peace officer to lay an information or effect a warrantless arrest if the officer:

(a) believes on reasonable grounds that a terrorist activity will may be carried out; and

(b) suspects on reasonable grounds that the imposition of a recognizance with conditions on a person, or the arrest of a person, is necessary likely to prevent the carrying out of the terrorist activity.

Both changes result in a significant lowering of the standard for arrest and detention.

The changes to the law are significant in two respects. The substitution of “may” where it currently says “will” is a significant watering down of the standard. “Will,” when coupled with “reasonable grounds to believe,” denotes evidence-based probability, whereas “may” denotes mere possibility.

Under current law, an individual may be arrested prior to actually committing the act if there are grounds to believe a terrorist act will be carried out. The new legislation replaces the word 'will' with the word 'may'.
The shift from “necessary” to “likely” is equally important. Necessity in this context suggests that the police officer suspects that no measure other than arrest will prevent a terrorist act. Likelihood is not necessity. Under the new provision, the police officer need only suspect that the arrest is more likely than not to prevent terrorist activity.”

Promoting Terrorism

Free speech is the cornerstone of a free society. Canadians generally agree that it has limits, and agree that yelling 'fire' in a crowded theatre and endangering lives is beyond the scope of free speech. The main issue here however is the freedom to express opinions whether they be political, religious, or philosophical.

The slippery language around the concept 'promoting terrorism' is another giant loophole for aggressive or even curious CSIS agents to slip through. Bill C-51 will modify the Criminal Code as follows:

“Every person who, by communicating statements, knowingly advocates or promotes the commission of terrorism offences in general—other than an offence under this section—while knowing that any of those offenses will be committed or being reckless as to whether any of those offences may be committed, as a result of such communication, is guilty of an indictable offense and is liable to imprisonment for a term of not more than five years.”

This section endangers free speech and will allow the state to arrest an individual that maybe trying to debate an issue or to analyze the merits and shortcomings of groups that have been deemed terrorist such as Hamas, Hezbollah, or the Muslim Brotherhood. It also may be used against us for supporting environmental groups, Native activists, or left wing groups that may advocate revolution. Should a CSIS spook consider your opinion a resource for the Muslim Brotherhood for example, then you are at risk of a lengthy jail term. We must defacto agree with the Canadian state that once they consider an individual or group terrorist, they are terrorists. Otherwise, we are in real trouble. Many Canadians may not agree with Mr. Harper's assessment of who is a terrorist and who isn't.

The use of terms like 'extremist' or 'terrorist' to base laws on is profoundly child-like. It reflects a mentality incapable of nuance or sophistication. It reflects George W Bush's view of bad guys and good guys. These terms defy definition and that is why Stephen Harper is driving them into the legislation. Anybody can be defined as a terrorist by somebody else from a different culture or a different epoch. The accepted idea of an extremist in 1970 wouldn't be close to what it is today. To be sure, Harper himself would be considered an extremist in 1970, even by Nixon's standards.

This bill puts all of us at the mercy of spooks and government whores. The use of terms like terrorism is simply a reflection of Mr. Harper's cynicism and his intent to ensure Canada's placement in the realm of 'secure' nations.

This is but two of the odious provisions in the act, an act that has not yet passed but surely will.

The Enlightenment

In the 1700s a wave of bold and free thinking upset the old feudal order. This wave of thought is generally known as the enlightenment. The enlightenment empowered reason as the sovereign ruler over the population, a ruler most of us have come to respect and admire. It is this ruler that the United States of America and modern Western societies are founded upon. It is the language of Thomas Paine, Jean Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant.

Kant observed that the enlightenment would put an end to Monarchic and clerical arbitrary power. An informed and thinking population will demand that reason and principles are placed above the morbid and vicious rule of the dark regions of human emotion. Kant said of the enlightenment that it is the freedom for the individual to use his or her own intelligence.

More broadly, the enlightenment demanded rule of law. No longer would human beings be ruled by cruel and capricious whims of revenge, insecurity, fear, hatred, or xenophobia. Laws, societies, and individuals would stand on a foundation of rational principles. No individual or body would rise above rule of law.

The enlightenment was thought of as humanity moving forward, away from the horror and terror of the cowardice and immaturity of the feudal past toward true justice and equality before the law.

Enlightenment ideas had fit nicely with the emerging and growing hunger of capitalism. And capitalism would provide high octane, energizing and propelling the language of the enlightenment into legislation and into our homes. The emerging bourgeois classes had tangible and pragmatic reasons to cast aside the oppressive weight of superstition and tradition. Contractual rights as opposed to traditional or arbitrary power would feed into the increasing power of the capitalist classes and correspondingly reduce the right of Kings. The enlightenment was a key element to the capitalist revolution.

The general thread of thinking known as the enlightenment were preceded by two principles that are foundational to the rational rule of law have survived and, similarly to enlightenment ideas, are vital to maintain the principles of a free and rational civilization. They are the "Great Writ" (habeas corpus) and as mentioned above, the Magna Carta.

Habeas corpus empowers the courts to direct any authority that holds an individual in custody to show cause to the court why the individual's liberty is denied within a reasonable amount of time. If no substantial reason is provided, the individual must be set free. It is a fundamental guarantee of liberty and any free society should have no difficulty with anything as basic as habeas corpus.

In the past decade or so, the United States and its subjects under NATO have skilfully changed the political syntax of the modern world. They are passing the boundary that separates free countries from autocracies and oligarchies in the dead of night. They do not deny that they are doing it; on the contrary. They do it while they scream at us to shut up; terrorists are about to strike. In fact, they use terrorist acts to justify the introduction of the language of fascism. Hitler did precisely the same thing with the fire at the Reichstag. The fire at the Reichstag was crucial to the establishment of Nazi Germany.

We have evolved from feudal power where it was openly acknowledged that might makes right. Naked reliance on violence and fear is what legitimized the power of monarchs. The state was an openly violent and oppressive institution. Power rested in the hands of Kings that could make arbitrary decisions based on His own highly charged emotions like revenge, fear, or greed.

We must maintain our capacity for critical reflection and thinking. We are in uncharted waters. The last time the tyrants wore brown shirts, jackboots, and displayed swastikas. They spewed a specific kind of rhetoric. They appealed to certain kinds of fears. This time it will not bear the exact signature of Mussolini or Adolph Hitler. In fact, it will be consciously displayed with different colours. But the fundamentals will remain. And those fundamentals are: state power over the rule of law, extreme nationalism, xenophobia, imperialism, systematic propaganda, state and corporate collusion, and endless war.

Stephen Harper and his ilk are the first, front and centre at solemn Remembrance Day ceremonies. They promote an air of sacred respect for the fallen. They are quick to tell us that these soldiers died for us, for our freedom. And it is exactly this same ilk that supports this bill. It leads one to suspect that all their poppies and salutes on November 11th are not about freedom at all. It is, for them, about militarizing the population to promote more war. To glorify war.

The proposed bill is far more dangerous than ISIS or terrorism. While Stephen Harper urges us to look abroad, to look at ISIS, he attacks the very foundation of Canada with far more pernicious toxicity than ISIS could ever hope for.


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