For its World Affairs Conference earlier this week, former U.S. Intelligence contractor-turned-whistle-blower Edward Snowden held a video conference with students of Upper Canada College, a private school that is located in Toronto. Snowden was there to answer questions, and to continue the discussion which he has helped to heavily influence thus far in regards to privacy, overreaching government, the misleading threats of terrorism, and more. Snowden took the opportunity to warn the students, and those listening, that they should be wary of the Canadian government's new knee-jerk response to the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks, with the introduction of its Anti-Terrorism Act 2015.
Many in the public have come out condemning the legislation and are trying to warn other Canadians against it. One of them, Craig Forcese, a leading expert on national security law charges, says that bill c-51 is the “most radical law” that he has ever seen in Canada. He isn't the only one, others are upset as well seeing as the new bill would give more powers to CSIS for broad spying efforts. Unsurprisingly, some supporters of the bill have responded by reassuring that the legislation lays out provisions which prohibit CISIS officers from activities that would end-up causing bodily harm or obstructing justice.
Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Daniel Therrien, previously wrote in an open letter dated back in 2011, that “Read together, the provisions of Bills C-50, C-51, and C-52 (augmented by changes in Bills C-22 and C-29) would substantially diminish the privacy rights of Canadians. They do so by enhancing the capacity of the state to conduct surveillance and access private information while reducing the frequency and vigour of judicial scrutiny. In essence, they make it easier for the state to subject more individuals to surveillance and scrutiny. “
In an allegedly free and democratically-elected nation, representatives shouldn't conduct an aimless and broad phishing expedition in order to find whatever threat it is that they are looking for. Snowden insists that the state's tools of intelligence and security, should be used only when truly necessary. Further, that they be used in the most targeted way in order to achieve their purpose. Instead however, these programs are no longer monitoring just “bad guys”, now they are being used to monitor entire populations, nations, entire classes of people, without regard to the impact that such actions have on those affected. This is happening in complete secrecy, it is being collected away from public debate and therefore public consent, and this takes away from the public's ability to maintain control and accountability.
Both Both New Democratic Party Leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal chieftain Justin Trudeau have decided to work against the interests of the Canadian citizens they supposedly represent, in their support of this overreaching bill. Trudeau even went so far as to make the claim that this legislation would make Canadians safer. However, despite their support, several others worry that there will be a lack of oversight with the new powers that are set to be given to CISIS, among other criticisms. Green Party leader Elizabeth May has publicly warned that the newly proposed bill would create a secret police force.
The issue with the new legislation isn't that the oversight for the newly proposed secrete police isn't clear. The issue is that the anti-terrorism bill itself is unnecessary, seeing as there are already laws and judicial systems in place that allow us to deal with any supposed threat. Terrorism itself is only direct acts, threats, and violations of private or public property, for which there are already laws in place to protect, affirm consequences, and to help citizens seek any remedy. In order to violate the rights of any citizen, the government which was enacted to protect those rights, needs to have just cause. If there is any such cause to be demonstrated, then they shouldn't have any problem with providing evidence and going through the channels which are already in place that will afford them the power to spy on and collect information regarding various citizens.
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