OTTAWA – This morning the BC Civil Liberties Association’s senior counsel, Carmen Cheung, set out the organization’s critique of Anti-terrorism Bill C-51 at the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (link to her full remarks). The bill includes measures to enhance the powers of CSIS, lower the legal threshold for police to detain people without criminal charges and criminalizes expressions of support for terrorist activities even where the speaker has no intention of committing a terrorist act.
Ms. Cheung was the first non-government witness to testify in the hearings looking into the bill. She argued against giving CSIS the ill-defined power to take “measured” to reduce threats, stating:
“This “threat reduction” power is a policing power. It is a policing power made extraordinarily broad by virtue of the expansive definition of “threats to the security of Canada” contained in s. 2 of the CSIS Act – a definition that was constructed to set out the mandate of an agency responsible for collecting and evaluating information, not a policing authority. It is a policing power made dangerous given the secrecy that accompanies national security activities – rights violations may be more difficult to detect, and once detected, more difficult to remedy. And it is a power that seems wholly unnecessary – government has provided little evidence for why this expanded power should be granted to CSIS or why CSIS should have any policing powers at all.”
Cheung also testified that the information-sharing provisions in the bill are fundamentally flawed and should not be enacted.
She stated that the new offence of “promoting terrorism” should be rejected, saying:
“It would make criminals of individuals whose sentiments may never even leave the confines of their own living room, so long as their listener is someone who might commit a terrorism offence. The new offence contains no requirement that the speaker actually intends a terrorism offence to be committed. It contains no requirement that the listener commit a terrorism offence, either.”
Cheung further took issue with the new provisions on no-fly listing in the bill, information-sharing provisions that could put people’s safety and privacy in jeopardy, and lowering the threshold for preventive detention – which permits people to be locked up who have not been convicted or even charged with any criminal offence.