Now that Bill C-51 has effectively become law, two Toronto-based organizations have launched a challenge against its Constitutionality. Both the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) and the Canadian Journalists for Freedom of Expression (CJFE), have filed a lawsuit in response to the controversial bill, claiming that the legislation itself is “overbroad” and “offensive.” Tom Henheffer, the executive director of the CJFE, has stated that C-51 is dangerous to our rights. He stated that this is the most dangerous piece of legislation in Canada's recent history, and he warned that it will lead to a massive chill on free speech, along with broad violations to privacy rights and of what is Constitutionally-protected speech in Canada.
BillC-51 was successfully passed and effectively became law back in June of this year. Despite its passage, many civil liberties advocates, legal scholars, and other concerned individuals have continued to speak-out against it. The two organizations who have launched the lawsuit aren't the only ones who mentioned the intention of doing so either. Well-known Constitutional lawyer Rocco Galati, who has been involved with the ongoing lawsuit COMER vs Bank of Canada , has also stated that he intended to initiate a lawsuit against Bill C-51 as well. For now, the two organizations bringing the lawsuit to court, will be helped by Paul Cavalluzzo who also is a renowned Constitutional lawyer.
“I feel that the government has gone far beyond the need to protect Canadians... terrorism is a problem, but that doesn’t give the government license to, in effect, run stampede over our rights and liberties,” said Cavalluzzo.
The lawsuit plans to challenge five sections of the bill specifically. They are challenging the authority of CSIS to get a warrant in secret, which they say pre-authorizes violations of the Canadian Charter. Second, they are drawing issue with the fact that at least 21 Canadian agencies will now be able to broadly share information with one another without any legitimate accountability or transparency. Third, they are concerned about the new provisions that give the government the ability to hold secret hearings relating to people that the government is trying to deport, they also say that the bill would limit the information available to special advocates who would be working on behalf of the person being deported. Fourth, they do not support Secure Air Travel Act legislation that effectively authorizes the government to have a no-fly list with the names of Canadians. Lastly, they do not agree with the amendments to the Criminal Code, which now establish a new offence of “promoting terrorism in general.” Cavalluzzo says that this term is too vague and will limit journalists who write about national security.
The 20-page application has gone into extensive detail about how and where the organizations believe the bill is unconstitutional. One of the main concerns is the transparency. CCLA executive director Sukanya Pillay, has said that one of the biggest concerns is that the new powers will mostly be executed in secret and without proper oversight. “You have information being shared at warp speed without any review of whether it was necessary or proportional or being used solely for the purpose for which it was shared,” she said.
A petition has also been launched against the legislation, which now has already gained more than 280,000 signatures. Canadian citizens are determined to keep this issue in the mainstream. Along with them are hundreds of law professors, policing experts, famous authors, successful businesses, former Prime Ministers of Canada, various security professionals, and many others, who are all working together to stand up for true transparency.
The challenge from the two organizations will be filed with the Ontario Superior Court on the grounds that specific sections of Bill C-51 violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms “in a manner that is not justified in a free and democratic society.” As such, they call for these sections to be struck down as they are unconstitutional and should receive no force and effect.
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