Conservative’s self-serving amendments to anti-terror Bill C-51

Renewal Update (April 8) – At its final meeting to study Bill C-51 on March 31, the House of Commons Committee on Public Safety and National Security adopted four amendments to the Anti-Terrorism Act, 2015. More than 100 proposed amendments by opposition committee members were defeated by the Conservative majority on the committee.

The Amendments

Part One – Security of Canada Information Sharing Act

Two of the government’s amendments affect part one of Bill C-51, the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act. The first concerns exceptions to the new information sharing powers for government departments and agencies. Referring to “activity that undermines the security of Canada,” the word “lawful” was removed from the following sentence:

Old:

“For greater certainty, it does not include lawful advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression.”

New:

“For greater certainty, it does not include advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression.”

Renewal Update has pointed out that far from guaranteeing that political activists will not be targeted, such an amendment means the government and security forces will assume unrestrained power to use self-serving political criteria to judge what “advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression” is acceptable and which is not.

The second amendment concerns a provision which allows further sharing of information outside the boundaries of the Act.

Old:

  1. For greater certainty, nothing in this act prevents a head [of a department or agency], or their delegate, who receives information under subsection 5(1) from, in accordance with the law, using that information, or further disclosing it to any person, for any purpose.

New (changes in bold):

  1. For greater certainty, the use and further disclosure, other than under this Act, of information that is disclosed under subsection 5(1) are neither authorized nor prohibited by this Act, but must be done in accordance with the law, including any legal requirements, restrictions and prohibitions.

This amendment does not impose any further prohibitions on information sharing than the original. It simply confirms that while such information sharing is not prohibited under the Act, neither is it authorized. Instead, it appears to be a matter of arbitrary exercise of authority by government ministers and heads of police agencies.

Part Two – Secure Air Travel Act

The third amendment, which affects the new Secure Air Travel Act in Bill C-51, has to do with the authority of the Minister of Public Safety to give orders to airlines with regards to who is permitted to fly.

Old:

  1. (1) The Minister may direct an air carrier to do anything that, in the Minister’s opinion, is reasonable and necessary to prevent a listed person from engaging in any act set out in subsection 8(1) and may make directions respecting, in particular,

(a) the denial of transportation to a person; or

(b) the screening of a person before they enter a sterile area of an airport or board an aircraft.

New:

  1. (1) The Minister may direct an air carrier to take a specific, reasonable and necessary action to prevent a listed person from engaging in any act set out in subsection 8(1) and may make directions respecting, in particular,

(a) the denial of transportation to a person; or

(b) the screening of a person before they enter a sterile area of an airport or board an aircraft.

As in the previous case, the amendment removing the word “anything” does not impose any restrictions on what the Minister may order other than to say that it must be “specific” and “an action.”

Part Three – Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act

The final amendment adopted by the committee adds one sentence to Part Three of the bill, which amends the CSIS Act.

Tagged as “Clarification,” it states:

12.1 (4) For greater certainty, nothing in subsection (1) confers on the Service any law enforcement power.

The implication is that while CSIS may not arrest or charge individuals with crimes, other activities are not prohibited. Renewal Update, among others, pointed out when this amendment was first discussed that neither it nor other aspects of the bill bar CSIS from detaining individuals. The Conservative-controlled committee refused to consider an amendment to specify that CSIS cannot engage in detention or forced rendition (deportation).

For more information about Bill C-51, see Previous Issues of Renewal Update.

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