Consultation on Canada’s National Security Framework, including Bill C-51
Communist Party of Canada, December 2016
The following Brief outlines the position of the Communist Party of Canada regarding former five-part omnibus Bill C-51, (the Anti-terrorism Act, passed by the Harper Conservative government in 2015) and the threat that the renewed “War on Terror” posses to fundamental human rights, security and peace.
The Communist Party of Canada was founded in 1921, in conditions of illegality under the War Measures Act. The Party’s ninety-five year history is interconnected with the struggles of the peoples of Canada for expanded civil, labour and democratic rights, and against Canada’s participation in imperialist wars and aggressions.
To frame its consultation, the House Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security has issued a discussion paper, entitled Our Security, Our Rights, which calls for “revamping our national security framework”. In our view, a genuine overhaul of security in Canada should include:
- Repealing the 2015 Anti-Terrorism Act in its entirety, along with the long list of anti-terrorism legislation
- Abolishing the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)
- Establishing a security framework which enshrines civil, labour and democratic rights and an independent Canadian foreign policy based on peace and disarmament
The passing of Bill C-51 evoked a storm of criticism against this legislation specifically, and Canada’s security framework more generally. Bill C-51 was the subject of several pan-Canadian days of protest. The Anti-Terrorism Act continues to receive widespread condemnation from Indigenous peoples, the labour movement, civil liberties groups, the Muslim community, environmentalists, feminists, youth and students, digital rights advocates, progressive farmers, artists and intellectuals. Bill C-51 was condemned by over a hundred civil society organizations in Quebec, as well as by four former Prime Ministers, lawyers and retired supreme court judges, privacy commissioners, provincial and municipal politicians, as well as political parties including the Greens, the Communist Party, the NDP, Quebec Solidaire and the Parti Québécois among others.
These critics have repeatedly said that the 2015 Anti-Terrorism Act amounts to one of the most serious assaults on civil rights and democratic freedoms in recent Canadian history. It was the reactionary government of Steven Harper which steadfastly maintained that to “protect freedom” the state must use an ugly combination of torture, drone missile executions, massive surveillance of all forms of communication, suspension of civil liberties, and threats against critical voices – in spite of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and international law to which Canada is a signatory. It was the Harper Conservatives who characterized the Muslim community, Aboriginal land defenders, and anti-pipeline activists as if they were a “Fifth Column” in Canadian society. Canadians have understandable expectation that the Standing Committee will recommend much more than cosmetic changes. Former Bill C-51 is un-amendable and must be repealed in full. Your recommendations and Parliament’s decision to repeal or amend the Anti-Terrorism Act will profoundly affect human rights in Canada today and the quality of political freedoms Canadians will have in the future. We urge you to recommend repeal of this dangerous legislation.
Context of anti-terrorist legislation
In justifying the original legislation, the Harper Conservative government described conjectural scenarios which were already criminalized. This shows that the intention of Bill C-51 was not to fight terrorism but to create a deep political chill and fear in the public muzzling public criticism and debate, and negatively effecting freedom of expression. The Communist Party of Canada has long said that the pre-2001 laws were sufficient to deal with matters of terrorism which are criminal acts. Within months of the events of September 11th in 2001, fourteen new over-broad terrorist offenses were added to the Canadian Criminal Code. Much of this legalization was proposed as temporary but has now become permanent and, with the 2015 Anti-Terrorism Act, further expanded.
In framing its discussion, the committee has presented a long “Background” paper in addition to the discussion paper. This document purports to address the question of so-called “radicalization to violence,” or the “process where people take up an ideological position that moves them towards extremism and ultimately, terrorist activity.” This concept is alarmist, promoting fear as well as distortions and untruths. For example, the Background paper presents the following scenario:
Mr. A is a charismatic speaker who holds weekly meetings in a local community centre. He has strong views on social and political issues. He invites individuals with similar interests to attend. Some of these individuals have become friends with each other, and with Mr. A. They are also his most devoted followers. Mr. A believes that things in Canada need to change. He is looking for people who are willing to get involved and make this happen. Over time, his calls for political and social change start taking on a more violent tone.
This chillingly over-broad presentation of “terrorist propaganda” could easily apply to all manner of scenarios involving progressive movements. The example is particularly disingenuous given the long-demonstrated ability of the RCMP, CSIS and other police forces across Canada to repeatedly surmise “violent threats” among popular resistance, no matter how doubtful, as well as instigate violence through the use of agent provocateurs. A case in point is the 2013 “Canada Day terrorist plot” on the BC Provincial Legislature. This July, Madam Justice Catherine Bruce struck down the terrorism convictions of John Nuttall and Amanda Korody, two young people living in poverty who have struggled with mental health challenges and addiction. Justice Bruce called their so-called terror plot a “police-manufactured crime.”
Inexplicably, there is no reference to racist, misogynist, white supremacist or neo-fascist groups in these discussions about “radicalization.” Far-right hate groups demonstrably present a bigger problem in Canadian society than supposed “lone wolfs,” or terror cells of religious fundamentalists. Research by the groups such as the Southern Poverty Law Centre have shown an exponential growth in the US of hate groups and militias since the beginning of the economic crisis in 2008, groups which have a strong online presence into Canada via sites such as Stormfront.org as well as social media. In 2012, the Ottawa Citizen obtained reports, via access to information, that white supremacists were organizing in the Canadian Forces. According to Stats Can, anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism and especially hate crimes against Muslim Canadians are increasing. Internal CSIS documents obtained by the Toronto Star in March 2015 also show that the majority of so-called lone-wolf terrorist attacks are committed by extreme right-wing ideologies, and note that assertions such as the “Western world is at war with Islam” helps recruitment strategies of groups like Islamic State.
Nevertheless, far-right attacks in Canada have been consistently situation outside of the definition of terrorism by politicians, police and the justice system. Then Minister of Justice, Peter McKay, deemed the pair of fascist sympathisers, who were charged with plotting a 2015 attack on a Halifax shopping mall on Valentine’s Day, as “not linked to terrorism.” Similarly, the shooting after the Quebec provincial election in 2012 by Richard Bain and the 2014 Moncton shooting were not tried as terrorism, despite the presence of a political agenda and violence in both cases.
To be clear, the Communist Party of Canada categorically condemns all terrorist acts, whether committed by individuals, organizations, or state institutions such as CSIS or the RCMP – or elevated to the level of foreign policy by the powerful imperialist countries. Immediately after the 2001 “9/11” events, the Communist Party of Canada said:
…acts of terrorism undermine the struggle for progressive change; they sideline and neutralize the mass movement, create fear and disorientation in the broad people’s fight back, and provide imperialism and reaction with a powerful pretext to intensify repression.
This does not change the fact that the most serious threats to peace and security, and to democratic rights and freedoms, are posed by the policies and actions of imperialist states themselves, not by a small number of violent criminals who seek to provoke repression in hopes of winning support for their own narrow fundamentalist agendas.
The increasingly reckless and aggressive policies by successive Liberal and Conservative governments are having unpredictable and destabilizing long-term global impacts. The reality is that Canadian-backed US foreign policy in the Middle East, in aiming to create a patchwork of weakened and fragmented Arab states, has produced a breeding ground for reactionary religious forces that the US, Britain, France, Saudi Arabia, Israeli, Turkey and other countries have, in turn, armed and financed. Despite distress – real or feigned – over brutal methods and reactionary politics, groups like Islamic State and al-Nusrah are valuable assets to imperialism and their activities have provided the pretext for direct military intervention in Syria.
In our view, the attack on democratic rights in domestic policy is a corollary of the increasingly bellicose foreign policy of the Canadian government, massively expanding military spending and engagement in US-led and NATO wars of occupation. One aspect of this corollary is the promotion of pro-war and islamophobic sentiment at home, to justify imperialist aggressions against Muslim-majority countries.
On the other hand, another aspect is the opportunity for a kind of inter-recruitment, cross-posting and exchange of ideology and experience between those who learned to handle riots, torture subversives, and engage in measures of ‘pacification’ in the occupied lands like Iraq and Afghanistan, and those work to undermine and criminalize dissent (often labeled domestic threats) – so-called “eco-activists”, “native blockaders”, and “multi-issue extremists” as CSIS has said in information obtained through Freedom of Information Requests. Time and time again, experience shows that if you give the police more power, they are not going to do less. With the Anti-Terrorism Act, an organizational basis can now be created for the most dangerous and reactionary elements in the police forces, previously somewhat isolated, to further consolidate, coordinate and recruit.
The Omnibus Anti-Terrorism Amendments
The Anti-Terrorism Act provides an extraordinary definition within its anti-terrorist mandate of any behaviour “that undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada or the lives or the security of the people of Canada” including:
- “changing or unduly influencing a government in Canada by force or unlawful means”
- “interference with critical infrastructure”
- “any activity that takes place in Canada and undermines the security of another state”
In this legal framework, for the first time “security” is placed as not one but “the most fundamental role” of the state. Such extraordinary derogation of democratic rights is paralleled only by the War Measure’s Act (now called the Emergencies Act).
By including “sovereignty” and “territorial integrity” this law attacks all those who would seek any form of alternative arrangement to Federalism and the Canadian Constitution. The record of subterfuge towards indigenous land defenders and nationalist movements in Quebec by political police is well established and was used as a major justification for the creation of CSIS.
The Security of Canada Information Sharing Act (2015) also uses a brand new and vast concept: actions that “undermine” Canada’s security. This concept is unfathomably broad. It is unclear what, exactly, is “undermining” security. This is not a specific legal term, nor is this concept included in the already far-reaching established mandate of CSIS as defined by the CSIS Act (1985). The only caveat in the legislation is “advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression,” which is also an incautious formulation that will most likely be circumvented through legal machinations. Indeed, the Committee’s discussion paper has already invented a solution, stating that the exception does not include “violent actions.”
By dictionary definition “undermining” refers not to a direct confrontation but actions effecting gradual weakening or change – ie. popular struggles maintaining continued mass public pressure or attrition. The reality is that this is how the rights of all people been have achieved, and indeed the limited basis of our democracy has been won, is a proud testament to the unity, determination and persistent struggle of the working class in Canada.
Rarely have the mass struggles for health care, pensions, unemployment insurance, accessible education, childcare, and even the right to vote, taken place in an exclusively legal or non-violent framework. In many cases the organizations fighting for those rights have faced violent attacks by employers and police, including arrests and imprisonment. The most egregious of these is the G20 arrests of more than 1,000 people – the largest arrest in Canadian history – for participation in legal protests. These arrests were later found to be unjustified and illegal.
Even narrowly considering protest movements utilizing “civil” disobedience, former Bill C-51’s specific language of “influencing a government” appears to criminalize exactly the purpose of social movements. The language of banning “interference with critical infrastructure,” (coming on top of the earlier anti-terrorist legislation already identifying essential services) is not only an attack on pipeline protestors, indigenous communities and environmentalists — but the entire labour movement. Could a strike at Canada Post, or at Air Canada, or CN or CP Rail, be placed as a matter of “national security”?
So-called “terrorist entities”
The Anti-Terrorism Act includes activity that “undermines the security of another state” potentially covering support for many forms of resistance, including armed struggle, with no distinction for national liberation movements and belligerent forces.
For example, a recent Parliamentary motion identified the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign (actively supported by civil society across Canada) as a supposed threat to Israeli state security. Moreover, several member groups of the Palestine Liberation Organization are slanderously listed by the Canadian government as terrorist groups, as is the entire democratically elected Hamas government in the Gaza strip. In our view, Palestinian solidarity is a clear potential target of this law.
The current Canadian government is also strong supporter of Colombia, which has the highest annual death rate of trade unionists in the world and one of the worse human rights records in Latin America. CSIS is already engaged in surveying, detaining and otherwise harassing Colombia solidarity activists in Canada. The Colombian regime has successfully negotiated peace talks with the major guerilla force, FARC-EP, yet Canada continues to maintain its re-classification of FARC from a belligerent force to terrorist group.
Before he was released from jail and elected president, anti-South African apartheid activist Nelson Mandela, founder of guerilla army Umkhonto we Sizwe, and leader of the African National Congress, were considered terrorists by the Canadian government. Supporters of the ANC could have been arrested under today’s Anti-Terrorism Legislation. It is likely those interested in solidarity with sociopolitical organizations struggling with issues of marginalization and equity would now be viewed as a domestic threat.
Secret political police
The Anti-Terrorism Act has fundamentally transformed CSIS (and legally entrenched what was already becoming its regular practice) by profoundly expanding its authority beyond collecting and analysing intelligence to direct action with the power of “disruption”. Thus CSIS has attained the role of a political police force.
“Disruption,” the same authorization secretly granted by Cabinet to the RCMP in the 1970s for its notorious activities in Quebec, essentially means dirty tricks and black operations. No less than six major commissions at the provincial and federal level inquired into illegal activities of the RCMP and revealed facts which shocked and appalled people across Canada. The expose of the RCMP “wrong-doing” was so shocking that eventually a Royal Commission was created by the federal government in 1977 to investigate, reporting back over several volumes up to 1981. The McDonald Commission recommendations included the requirement that the RCMP obey the law, and led to removal of the RCMP from national security responsibilities.
In effect, the proposed changes to the law would restore all these powers, giving CSIS licence to engage in break-ins, computer hacking, draining bank accounts, ripping up passports, “smear campaigns,” kidnapping, indefinite detention or much more that violates constitutional rights and will be most likely undetectable – so long as in advance judges sign off, based only on a vague notion of national security in a secret warrant.
Warrants are intended to prevent, not authorize, Charter violations. Instead, federal judges become complicit in illegality and the law gives a blank cheque to breach Charter rights and freedoms. This is no less alarming in the context that judges are increasingly criticizing CSIS and the government for demanding warrants without candor – or being completely truthful – like Richard Mosley’s 2013 ruling.
The warrants will be issued in secret, with only the judge and the government side represented. Law professors Kent Roach and Craig Forcese have noted that “The person affected by the illegal activity will not be represented — in fact they will often never know who visited the misfortune on them. They cannot defend their rights. No civil rights group will be able to weigh in.”
In fact, the outer legal limit here is “bodily harm” “obfuscation of justice” and “violation of sexual integrity.” It should be noted that bodily harm is not legally considered exempting of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Legally “disappearing” people
Section ten of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees habeas corpus, while section eleven includes the right to be presumed innocent. Preventative detention as outlined in the anti-terrorism legislation both erodes and alters these Charter rights. In so doing, the Anti-Terrorism Act also violates the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
As lawyers Clayton Ruby and Nader R. Hasan have said “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 [Canadian] legal tradition and is inconsistent with the constitutionally protected right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty.”
Such preventative detention is a form of punishment without a crime. It imposes a type of sanction without trial for up to a week – the same amount of time as the War Measures Act for detention without charge. Nothing regulates what happens in that time, no matter if the suspect is later proven innocent or guilty. People therefore can be “disappeared,” scooped off the street on suspicions alone. Overseas, there is nothing in this law preventing CSIS from kidnapping and detaining people without limit.
Kidnapping is one of the crimes committed in Canada by the RCMP and exposed and condemned in the McDonald Commission Report. Some of these arrests have been brought to the attention of Parliament, such as the arrest of Jaggi Singh during the 1997 APEC protests in Vancouver, who was “wrestled to the ground on the UBC campus by three plainclothes police officers, handcuffed, thrown in the back of an unmarked car with tinted glass, driven off and locked up during the APEC summit.” Many other examples could be found. Already, “security certificates” allow indefinite detention (sometimes for over a decade) without charges for non-nationals. Evidence cannot be released to the accused and their lawyers.
Moreover, with the language of “may” and “likely,” conjecture and stereotypes, or profiling, replaces proof in the framework of the Anti-Terrorism Act. It is not seriously disputed that racial profiling occurs by police across Canada, as confirmed by voices ranging from numerous racialized communities to the Ontario Human Rights Commission. CSIS and RCMP harassment of the Arab and Muslim people, as well as workers from other racialized communities, has been well documented especially since 2001.
There are also increasingly common cases of political profiling – the mass arrests, “caging” and effective imposition of martial law for three days in the streets of Toronto during the G20 in 2010; the Quebec GAMMA (Guet des activités des mouvements marginaux et anarchists) police unit in 2011, which was to target “marginal” social movements; police searching people simply for wearing red squares during the 2012 Quebec student strike; the 2013 police brutality against the Elsipogtog First Nation anti-fracking protest; the 2014 police gang-style raid on a Vancouver home investigating mischief charges of anti-pipeline graffiti; the 2015 revelations of police tracking all forms of protest including via social media with the Government Operations Centre; the 2016 revelations that police are spying on journalists. There are countless other examples.
Muzzling free speech
In creating a new criminal offense of “advocating or promoting” what is termed “terrorism in general”, the Anti-Terrorism Act violates section two of the Charter which includes guarantees of freedom of the press and freedom of expression, as well as the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The law also empower customs officials to decide what exactly is “terrorist propaganda”. This new offense, deliberately couched in vague language, has been described by Roach and Forcese as “a sledgehammer where a scalpel is needed,” and noted that the offence is already covered by s.83.22 of the Criminal Code (instructing someone to carry out a terrorist activity).
Indeed, such a sweeping definition appears to cover not just verbal or written expression but also gestures, and visual representations – ie. graffiti, street theatre, and physical symbols. It is disturbingly close the recent repressive laws in a number of Eastern European countries which extend bans of neo-Nazi symbols to the Red Star, Hammer and Sickle, and even Che Guevera T-shirts. This “terrorist propaganda” doesn’t even need to be shared and public, or available on a networked computer system, and includes no requirement that action be intended by the speaker.
The provisions in former Bill C-51 also allows CSIS to wage cyberwar. “Even someone who re-Tweets or reposts a comment made by someone else on Facebook could potentially be captured under this sweeping legislation,” Pam Palmater, a Mi’kmaw lawyer and well-known activist in the Idle No More movement has noted. While requiring court warrant, it is likely that much of these operations will occur in the shadows as CSIS intimidates internet providers into “voluntarily” censoring material.
Too innocent to charge, too guilty to fly
Canada’s No-fly list has now become a secret list compiled with secret evidence, only reviewable through court proceedings that may also be secret. Already, by operating in tandem with US intelligence agencies, this list has signaled a loss of Canadian sovereignty and another open door to profiling. Evo Morales (president of Bolivia), Nabih Berri (speaker of the Lebanese parliament) and the artist Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens) are all on the U.S. no-fly list.
Freedom of movement is a basic right guaranteed by the Charter. As the Canadian Labour Congress notes, “Especially in Canada, air travel is one of the most practical ways of getting from one end of the country to the other. It is also, for all practical purposes, the only way to travel from continent to continent, and many people have to travel by air for their work.” Moreover, it has been well established that it is almost impossible to be removed from the no-fly lists.
Another dangerous development in the Anti-Terrorism Act is the intergovernmental sharing of information including policing, border services, customs, signals intelligence, revenue, and consular access persons. In today’s era of Big Data and data mining, it is reminiscent of the information gathering under PROFUNC. A very loose range of information can be shared (such as potentially tax returns or young offender records) for an indefinite time period and without control of these records, and no reliability of the data is even guaranteed.
There is no clarity about whom the information will be shared with – which could be with security bodies in Canada and international agencies. At a minimum, such “flagging” would create black lists throughout the government.
The security concept approach of the Anti-Terrorism Act has disturbing parallels with the over-broad formulations of security in South American during the 1960s and 70s. In this sense, such laws genuinely construct and ante-chamber to authoritarianism. As the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Canada said in 2010 after the G20 mass arrests:
Whether in the form of overt repression (police attacks on picket lines and street demonstrations), or through less crude or obvious legal-judicial means (use of court injunctions, wilful manipulation of the electoral process, etc.), or the promotion of ultra-right, racist and neo-fascist groupings or even paramilitary units, the class purpose remains the same: to stifle the democratic expressions and aspirations of the masses, to weaken the labour and democratic fightback, and to silence and, where necessary, crush anti-capitalist dissent. […] The only antidote to the dangerous drift to state authoritarianism or fascism is the mobilization of all the pro-democratic forces, anchored by a strong, united, conscious and militant movement of labour and its closest allies, and with a strong and influential presence of the Communists.
The Communist Party of Canada has consistently said that CSIS is a particularly dangerous part of the state apparatus. As noted above, CSIS was created in 1984, when public outcry forced the federal Parliament to re-assign the intelligence gathering authority of the RCMP to a new intelligence agency.
While legally possessing limited powers, from the outset CSIS was granted the sweepingly broad mandate of addressing any “threat to the security of Canada.” Working in tandem with the CIA and other imperialist security agencies, by its very existence CSIS constitutes an attack on the democratic and civil rights of Canadians, operates outside the law and beyond the reach of Parliament, and exists to suppress political dissent.
These are of course the very same grievances that led to agency being created. Such public outcry was not limited to the role of the RCMP. In 1988 the War Measures Act was finally repealed, reflecting the broad opposition to this law by the Canadian people. It was replaced by the Emergencies Act (1988). Any declaration of an emergency by Cabinet must now be reviewed by Parliament (in 30 to 120 days depending on the emergency), that any temporary laws made under the Act should presumably be subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and that emergency powers should not be used to end strikes.
The most reactionary sections of the ruling class, however, have sought to effectively retain, restore and even expand the of the War Measurer’s Act allowing “security” to trump and constrain democratic rights, and not just on a temporary basis. Today, following the overthrow of the USSR and socialist countries in eastern Europe, a new scare tactic has been found in the so-called “War on Terror” as a supposed permanent emergency.
In 2001, after the events of 9/11, the Chretien Liberal government rushed the omnibus C-36 Canadian Anti-Terrorism Act through Parliament in just two months. The new law defined “terrorist activity” as motivated by “political, religious or ideological” reasons (immediately raising concern about profiling) and with the intentional purpose of violent intimidation – even of a single individual.
Somewhat like the US Patriot Act, which must also be renewed, two other measures of the act (preventive detention and investigative hearings) were adopted with “sunset clauses” which lapsed in 2007. While the minority parliament of the time rejected an extension, these two measures were brought back by the Harper Conservative government with the Combating Terrorism Act (2013).
Since then, a political climate of insecurity has been fostered by successive Liberal and Conservative federal governments. Using the ambiguity of the law, the arrest and trial of eighteen young Muslim men in Toronto became the center of a CSIS and RCMP-orchestrated media circus in a court case widely regarded as an operation characterized by instigation, entrapment, trickery, and framing.
The danger of information sharing by CSIS has led to torture, a reality which came forward not just with the egregious revelations of Mahar Arar but also the cases of Abousfian Abdelrazik, Ahmad El Maati, and other Canadian citizens.
The story of the Secret Trial Five, detained for nearly 30 years combined and who, to date, have neither been charged with a crime nor seen the evidence against them, has exposed the unjust Kafkaesque nature of Security Certificates.
During the Quebec student strike, a group of young people were changed with never-before used sections of the Anti‑Terrorism Act, “Hoax regarding terrorist activity,” after releasing a small smoke bomb in a metro station.
In 2014 the so-called “Cyber-bullying Bill” gave law enforcement agencies even wider surveillance powers, and allowing Internet Service Providers to voluntarily turn over huge volumes of information about individuals to the government, while “The Protection of Canada from Terrorists Act”, gave CSIS new powers to expand its international espionage activities beyond the borders of Canada and cut judicial oversight out of the admission of information from confidential informants at trial, automatically preserving the anonymity of those informants, so the accused will not know who is accusing them.
CSIS and the RCMP are only at the end of a long historical line of ruling-class institutions, with agents and informants in labour unions, educational institutions and political organizations, which Canadians have found themselves resisting.
Considerable discussion about Bill C-51 among politicians has pivoted on the question of review and oversight of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service by the Security Intelligence Review Committee. Some commentators have expressed confusion why the sponsors of this bill seem to be experiencing “Arar amnesia,” ignoring the O’Connor commission’s conclusion for the need of greater control over CSIS and expanding CSIS’s powers. However, the real point of Bill C-51 is to reject even such relatively tepid conclusions with the opposite direction – building a national security state.
In our party’s view it is impossible to reconcile CSIS with democratic rights. Not only must the Anti-Terrorism Acts be withdrawn, but the agency itself abolished – along with the Communications Security Establishment of Canada, and the other intelligence agencies run by the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Defence. The RCMP should be dismantled and policing put under civilian control.
To be sure, oversight and review are not the same, as oversight would occur in “real time” while review is after the fact. With Bill C-22, the Liberal government is proposing a renewed oversight committee. However, this proposed Committee has no ability to ensure it receives relevant information, to initiate independent investigations, nor to ensure comprehensive reporting.
CSIS has neither parliamentary oversight nor review. This would no doubt be a basic minimum immediate standard to achieve but the evidence is not heartening that legislative oversight or even a “super-SIRC” would deter powerful security services from engaging in illegal or improper activities.
In fact, some of the greatest oversight powers are held by the U.S. Senate and House intelligence committees. These committees have, time and time again, given their imprimatur to the CIA – one of the most important and probably the sharpest tool of the U.S. ruling elite for re-tailoring the world to suit Washington’s likings.
There is currently virtually no review of CSIS and the CSEC. The Conservatives recently eliminated the inspector general, an office of which few people were even aware. The Security and Intelligence Review Committee has no jurisdiction over Communications Security Establishment Canada, the notorious intelligence division which does mass electronic wiretapping. And the SIRC is perhaps best described as “totally complicit” with CSIS.
The fact is, as Edward Snowden revealed, the “secret state” has direct access to telecommunications, is larger and more powerful and less subject to any form of democratic control than it has ever been, and a large part of their function has always been to investigate the people of Canada themselves. It is tempting to think of this secret security state as something of a sorcerer’s apprentice. And indeed, it has just that appearance: a creation ‘out of control,’ graduating to ever greater abuses without necessarily the kind of executive directive that Cabinet gave the RCMP with its “disruption mandate” of the 1970s resulting in so many well documented violations of civil rights in Quebec.
However, though CSIS is unquestionably autonomous, and, at times, has its own motive forces, like the work of all secret services it is ultimately no more than a continuation by other means of the policy of the government concerned and the ruling class.
Both CSIS and CESC threaten democratic rights, constitute increasingly important parts of the Canadian war machine, and are also giant wastes of resources.
CESC’s new headquarters, which contains a complex of super computers designed to find “the terrorist needle in the haystack of data,” consumes as much electricity as a small town.
What results it has obtained in fighting “terrorism” seems to be minor – which is not surprising, since its true mandate is to spread a paralyzing political chill and fear, leaving governments and security forces free to block the emergence of broad popular movements and coalitions to demand pro-people policies and progressive change.
In our view, the data gathered by these anti-democratic forces should be destroyed. The Canadian government and military has no business acting in full cooperation with U.S. and other international security agencies.
Therefore, our party calls on your committee to consider the recommendations we have made to turn around this serious and intensifying attack on civil and democratic rights. In summary, the Communist Party of Canada proposes:
- Abolish the 2015, 2007 and 2001 Anti-terrorism laws;
- Abolish security certificates and the associated secret trials;
- Scrap the no-fly lists;
- Abolish all laws on the municipal, provincial and federal level prohibiting freedom of assembly, including those requiring special permits or otherwise criminalizing so‑called “spontaneous” protests;
- Require police to explicitly affirm that even when protests are strictly considered “unlawful,” they are equally protected by the right to freedom of peaceful assembly;
- Launch an independent public inquiry into the role of the RCMP and CSIS in limiting dissent including use of agent provocateurs, monitoring activists, and crowd control techniques;
- Strengthen and enforce sanctions against police officers convicted of using excessive force;
- Stop the use of agents provocateurs and all forms of entrapment and coercion used by police security forces;
- Abolish all forms of profiling such as political profiling and the notorious racial‑profiling;
- Abolish the Government Operations Centre and stop “lawful access legislation” which allows online spying without a warrant or safeguards to rights such as covert, real‑time surveillance and access to personal or private information;
- Dismantle CSIS and the RCMP, and enacting legislation establishing civilian control of police forces in every jurisdiction including enforcement powers with teeth;
The Communist Party has long proposed guaranteeing civil and democratic rights by enshrining them in a new Constitution that would guarantee the fundamental rights of all citizens, residents and immigrants to freedom of association, assembly, religion, and of the press, and the rights to liberty and security, and equality without discrimination based on race, gender, religion or national origin, etc, and would remove the notwithstanding clause in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
A new constitution would also guarantee the collective rights of Canada’s nations and peoples to national self-determination, including the right to secession, and to self-government. It would include the collective social and economic rights to healthcare and education, to jobs and housing, adequate living standards,
A new constitution would prohibit the violation of the civil liberties of immigrants. It would outlaw racism and discrimination. It would assure the democratic, cultural and language rights of the non-French, non-English ethnic groups in Canada. A new constitution must embody a Bill of Rights, and a Bill of Rights for Labour, to provide guarantees of trade union and democratic rights which apply to the people of all nations within the Canadian state. These guarantees must ensure economic, social, cultural and linguistic equality, the right of assembly, the right to organize and strike, the habeas corpus right not to be arbitrarily deprived of one’s liberty, the right to a job, to freedom of movement, to health, to education, to housing. The rights of women, youth and children must be guaranteed.
A genuinely democratic constitution must be accompanied by basic structural reform. To overcome regional inequality, these reforms must be based on the necessity for all-sided economic development in all parts of Canada, combined with nationalization of all natural resources, above all energy. Through publicly-owned corporations, benefits from the development of natural and energy resources must serve the people of Canada as a whole as well as industrial and social development in the provinces where the resources are found.
The erosion of local democracy has its roots in the absence of constitutional status, jurisdiction and rights for municipalities. A democratic constitution would recognize municipalities, guarantee local municipal autonomy, and create the most favourable conditions for local democratic control.
A new constitution should unify social legislation to provide equal opportunity and high standards in all of Canada while respecting the sovereignty of Quebec, and the right to self-government of the Aboriginal peoples. It must ensure that the corporations will not be able to escape responsibility for the contribution they owe to public education, living standards, and the health and social welfare of all Canadians.
Most important, a new constitution will help to remove the causes of the long-standing disunity, friction and resentment between English-speaking Canada and Quebec, and the Aboriginal peoples’ inequality and national oppression.
The Communist Party of Canada sees the issue of Canada’s security in the broadest terms, including the security of Canadians’ civil, social, democratic and labour rights, the security of national and Indigenous rights, the rights of immigrants and racialized peoples, rights of women and children, the security of Canadian sovereignty and independence. These are rights that need to be expanded, while the existing security state laws which threaten the rights and security of Canadians in all other respects, must be repealed as the most urgent priority.
Central Executive Committee
Communist Party of Canada
December 14, 2016
290A Danforth Avenue,