Militarization of Canadian Ports: Concerns of Canadian Maritime Workers Council on Marine Transportation Safety Regulations

For Your Information

TML is posting below excerpts from a letter dated August 30, 2006 from the Canadian Maritime Workers Council to Ms. Joanne St-Onge, Director, Marine Security Regulatory Affairs, Department of Transport.

* * *

Dear Ms. St-Onge,

This letter contains comments on proposed Regulations Amending the Marine Transportation Security Regulations.

We would like to preface our comments by declaring our commitment to improving marine security in Canada. Our members spend the majority of their waking hours working on the waterfront. The safety and security of the Canadians we represent is a top priority for the members of the Canadian Maritime Workers Council.

We have engaged in talks with Transport Canada over a protracted period to make sure that new security regulations effectively safeguard our ports without unduly restricting the efficient movement of people and goods. Our goal is to craft a regulation that is both strategic from a security perspective and practical from the perspective of a working port.

Smart Regulation

It is most unfortunate that Transport Canada’s sage approach to drafting the regulation in consultation with stakeholders may be offset by its rather hasty decision to proceed with the publication in Canada Gazette Part 1 before the most meaningful stage of the consultative process has been completed.

Even though the proposed Marine Transportation Security Clearance Program (MTSCP) will give little more than a false sense of security, it comes with a high cost to individual liberties.

The MTSCP targets honest workers most of whom have little power to direct or control the movement of cargo or to affect conditions at Canadian ports in a manner that would permit a security incident.

The vast majority have been employed without incident for years and in many cases decades. Yet, the proposed MTSCP subjects these honest Canadians to intrusive background checks. Decisions that could profoundly affect a worker’s livelihood will be made based on unreliable information provided by government security agencies that have been accused of lying and worse. The MTSCP allows Transport Canada to deny a security clearance based on “reasonable grounds to suspect.”

Reducing legal and civil liberties like these offends Canadians who believe in the rule of law.

For administrative reasons, according to Transport Canada, it is impossible to provide an independent appeal of decisions pursuant to the MTSCP. Those denied a security clearance, who could easily be wrongfully accused given the low standard of reasonable suspicion and the questionable quality of information decisions will be based upon, would be forced to apply for reconsideration to the same department that made the original judgment.

It is important to note as well that there is no civilian oversight of the national security activities of Transport Canada.

The need for civilian oversight of Transport Canada and the increasing number of government departments and agencies undertaking national security activities has been raised in recent months by many including the Canadian Bar Association, the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the former chair of the Public Complaints Commission for the RCMP, Shirley Heafey. Indeed, in a submission to the Arar Commission, Ms. Heafey, recommended the creation of a National Security Review Committee to provide civilian oversight of the national security activities of all departments and agencies. And in presentation to a Senate Committee she wrote: “The existing patchwork approach to civilian review of national security activities poses significant risks for rights and freedoms, since these are the principles that may be compromised when national security activities are permitted to go unchecked.” (Toronto Star, April 2, 2005)

An independent appeal procedure has been recognized as an essential ingredient of the TWIC program in the United States. Transport Canada should follow suit. Transport Canada allows that anyone refused a clearance or whose clearance is cancelled on the basis of information received from CSIS may complain to the Security Intelligence Review Committee. (Toronto Star, April 2, 2005, page 3) This offers us cold comfort, especially considering the SIRC’s June 2005 report which concludes, in part, that CSIS makes it difficult to oversee its operations. Media accounts of the report are alarming:

“The watchdog’s June 2005 report, dubbed Top Secret and obtained by The Canadian Press, offers rare and disturbing insight into a security agency it says is not above lying and manipulating information to achieve its ends – even if in the process it destroys the reputation and career of an innocent person.

“Canada’s security and intelligence investigators routinely destroy screening interview notes and are not above lying, making it difficult for anyone to scrutinize their work.” (Canadian Press, September 14, 2005)

Source: TML Daily, February 2, 2007 – No. 16

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Filed under No Harbour for War (Halifax), Working Class

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