Now that Bill C-51 has been passed in Canada, the issue of privacy has become a growing concern with many citizens, civil liberties groups, and others. Many voters have vowed that they are dedicated to making this issue a deciding factor on who they will vote for in the upcoming election in October later this year. This bill, along with various document leaks and other pieces of legislation, is contributing to a growing problem in Canada. It is coming to be known that government surveillance of citizens in Canada is a worrisome problem that's on the rise, according to the Canadian Journalists For Free Expression (CJFE) and other groups.
Recent documents that were obtained through an Access to Information request, revealed that the RCMP has been using fake social media accounts on sites like Twitter and Facebook, in order to monitor and connect with protest groups and advocates in Toronto and possibly other areas. It is believed that agents posed as students on Facebook who had stated that they were supposedly on fixed-incomes. They would connect with random individuals using these fake accounts, and they would ask vague questions about various protests that were taking place in Canada.
It was revealed that one of the fake accounts-known as Bebop Arooney-had been tracking at least two dozen organizations in the Toronto area alone. These organizations that they were watching included Black Lives Matter Toronto, Idle No More, the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, and several other groups. The RCMP has stated that the Facebook account in question, was not used for surveillance purposes, as many advocates are calling the fake impersonating a bit disturbing to say the least. The Director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association's Fundamental Freedoms Program, has stated that if there was no criminal investigation ongoing, then monitoring these groups “is potentially problematic,”.
The BC Civil Liberties Association (BCCLA) has also filed a complaint which alleges that CSIS tracked environmental advocacy groups in an effort to gather information about anti-pipeline activities. According to the complaint, it is also alleged that CSIS shared the information with the National Energy Board. The groups that have been mentioned in the targeted assessment, include Dogwood Initiative, ForestEthics, Leadnow.ca, Sierra Club BC, and some parts of the Idle No More movement. A hearing regarding these environmental groups has been conducted behind closed doors; closed to complainants, the media, and the public. Under C-51, these groups and their activities can now be dealt with under the realm of terrorism, because it is claimed that their opposition (in this case) to the petroleum industry poses a threat to national security.
“This whole overlying issue is (whether) freedom of expression is constitutionally protected and what’s the role of government in that,... Now the process that’s supposed to bring that to light to say whether our concerns are valid is actually gagged.” -- Dogwood Initiative Executive Director, Will Horter.
There are clearly many Canadians who aren't happy about their civil liberties being violated, tens of thousands have even signed an online petition to voice their concerns over C-51. As the CJFE warns along with other civil liberties groups, this growing spying trend has placed the privacy of all Canadians at risk. Our rights to freedom of assembly, expression, and association, are supposed to be protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but we are increasingly seeing that those rights are being violated under the guise of a security threat. Hoping to seek remedy from the courts when it comes to C-51, a lawsuit has been launched against the Anti-Terrorism Act, on the grounds that it violates various sections of the Charter.
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