Ahmad Saeid: Terrorism bill C-51 only creates more insecurity

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      Like millions of people across Canada, I was shocked by the news that the House of Commons passed Bill C-51 this Wednesday (May 6). The authorities this proposed law gives to Canada’s spy agency, without any checks and balances, are only comparable to those found in the most horrific of dictatorships in Third World countries. The bill, as it stands today, is a tool that allows the government to act away from any legal scrutiny, and takes the Canadian justice system and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms out of reach of Canadian citizens.

      As a Muslim blogger, the part about encouraging terrorism “in general” is particularly disturbing for me. Let’s say I write a blog post expressing my views as a Muslim on any current world event, and someone in CSIS finds that my opinion is “in general” supporting or encouraging terrorism, what then? How can I be absolutely sure no one at CSIS will have an interpretation that my text is “in general” supportive of terrorism? What if I disagree with the interpretation of the CSIS agent about what exactly any text I wrote is supposed to mean, how are we going to resolve this conflict? Will the spy agency present their point of view in front of a judge, in an open court, where I will be able to present my own interpretation of what I meant with what I said?

      For all I know, I might be violating this proposed law right now, by simply expressing my opposition to it!

      Without a clear definition of what “supporting terrorism in general” means, I can’t see how I can be sure to avoid violating this law by accident, whenever I express my views as a Muslim. If I am expected to not violate a law, it should be at least possible for me to understand it. If the law says that the government decides when the law was violated, then for me to make sure I don’t violate the law, I have to either check with the government about every sentence I want to write, or wait for the government to come and arrest me after I write anything, and if they don’t show up, I will know I didn’t violate the law this time!

      The vagueness in this core part of Bill C-51 is far reaching, and it renders many other aspects of it vague and even counter-productive.

      As an example, the bill gives spy agencies the power to take down online content that it deems to be encouraging terrorism “in general”. As a blogger, I think of what I write as my proof of innocence. I believe that, if presented in a fair court of law and an impartial judge takes a comprehensive look at what I write, they can clearly see that I am against terrorist groups, and terrorism in general. Allowing CSIS to take down content from the Internet, after accusing someone of being supportive of terrorism, gives them the power to destroy any evidence that person might have to prove their writing was not supportive of terrorism in the first place.

      In addition to not providing any clear idea of how to not support terrorism and where to dispute any disagreement over whether support of terrorism “in general” took place, and not allowing the accused to retain the disputed material as evidence to be reviewed by any judicial process, the bill also limits access to the justice system to review such disputes in the first place.

      The same goes for all the other powers this bill gives the spy agency to deal with those they deem supportive of terrorism “in general”. A citizen can be added to the no-fly list, have his movement restricted, have his financial transactions disrupted, or be detained, based on a perceived threat by a CSIS agent, that never went through a judicial process in an open court.

      It will mean, as a Muslim in Canada, I have to live under constant fear of being arrested if someone in CSIS thinks something I wrote might be “in general” supportive of terrorism.

      In short, this bill, if passed by the Senate, risks making Canadian citizens in general, and Canada’s Muslims in particular, live as second-class citizens, and puts them under the mercy of security agencies’ agents. It gives McCarthyesque and arbitrary powers to those agencies, and their executives, to become super citizens, and decide which citizens deserve to have rights, and which ones don’t.

      The only possible consequence of this “anti-terrorism bill” will be to manufacture more lone-wolf incidents, because it will make Muslim youth less likely to share their views, out of fear of prosecution. It ties the hands of writers, bloggers, and activists in speaking about controversial issues, and limits the abilities of religious communities to detect and interfere to prevent endangered youth from being radicalized, by forcing them to keep their views away from public eyes. And it almost definitely reduces the ability of society as a whole to interfere to stop terrorist attacks until the moment they take place, making us all less safe and more vulnerable.

      In other words, the law is not only useless, in that it doesn’t achieve its objective, it is actually counter-productive to existing anti-terrorism efforts. It violates a whole range of basic rights and freedoms to achieve more insecurity for everyone.

      Lastly, I hope the Senate will think about the following question, before voting on this bill: When a CSIS agent goes to the court to ask for permission to violate a citizen’s charter rights, what document will the judge base their decision upon, to decide whether to allow the security officer to violate the citizen’s rights? And how can that document have the legal power to override the charter of rights and freedoms?

      Ahmad Saeid is a blogger, journalist, and photographer in Vancouver.

      Comments

      7 Comments

      Q

      May 8, 2015 at 7:48pm

      Well... CSIS now sounds like Canadian branch of ISIS. They both bring terror, don't they?

      mayyy

      May 9, 2015 at 4:37pm

      Jeez Q, try to sound a little mature!!

      Michael And Ingrid Heroux

      May 10, 2015 at 12:36am

      My family and I started warning people about Harper's brutal secret police agency over 6 years ago and Harper's government murdered our 2 daughters and the Kathy Liknes family and tried to murder the rest of our family over the fraudulent 30-08 warrants against us.

      If anyone knows of a good lawyer so we can keep the rest of our family alive please get ahold of us. You can contact us on our website. Thanks

      Michael And Ingrid Heroux

      http://michaelandingridheroux.wordpress.com

      https://plus.google.com/109414718225592332058/about

      My family and I have been dealing with the Harper governments ACCESS TO INFORMATION system for 2 years now trying to get our 30-08 warrant information so we can sue the Harper government for torturing and murdering our family and we are still waiting for them to help us.

      We were told our requests need our signatures, birth dates, and social insurance numbers. We send in the FOI request forms with a sample of our hand writing, multiple samples of our signatures, our birthdates, copies of our birth certificates and copies of our social insurance cards.

      My wife and I finally got our second reply back from our RCMP freedom of information requests that we sent them to get our 30-08 warrant information and the investigation information that our daughters were working on before they were murdered. My wifes reply from the RCMP was that they needed to know what RCMP detachment has her information so they can find it and my reply from the RCMP was that they needed to know my birthdate before they can find my information. We are being stonewalled by the RCMP from getting our information.

      My wife and I just got our reply back from CSEC. They need to know from us what section of CSEC is holding our 30-08 warrant information so they can find it. They don’t know what section of CSEC holds terror investigation information. What are we suppose to say to that? How are we suppose to get our 30-08 warrant information and have a proper investigation done for the torture and murder of our family for the last 6 years? Who is going to help us?

      Theresa Brucker

      May 10, 2015 at 10:13am

      Hopefully no one's life will be damaged or changed before this piece of legislation is thrown out by the SCC. This is what has happened to other legislation introduced by the harper government in an attempt to buy votes. Any law student can tell you that the term 'in general' is too vague by far to be in criminal legislation. Since the federal Department of Justice employs lawyers whose job it is to make sure that all legislation sent to the house does not offend the Charter, it appears that harper is ignoring his lawyers' advice.
      It seems that some Canadian's agree to give up their fundamental rights so that CSIS can chase down terrorist ghosts. Ghosts that they see everywhere. But those same people likely don't have any idea what the legislation means and their reactions are of the knee-jerk variety.
      I think a civil liberties lawyer should take a reference case on this legislation directly to court and seek the courts', and not harper's, interpretation of the language and it's effect on our rights.
      Lest people forget, CSIS has indiscriminately infiltrated many groups of people; union groups were targeted for years and perhaps still are?
      I hate to say it, Mr. Saeid, but you are absolutely right. You will likely be put on CSIS watch list because you wrote this blog. And commenters like me will also go on a target list. And as far as the Straight goes, CSIS probably reads each edition cover to cover to discover all manner of nefarious readers.

      J. A

      May 11, 2015 at 10:50am

      Stop Bill ‪#‎C51‬: Every time you sign, an e-mail goes to each & every MP & Senator listed! ‪#‎cdnpoli‬

      https://www.change.org/p/marie-eve-letourneau-gg-ca-members-of-parliamen...

      " Bill C-51 is not merely an assault on our liberties and democratic freedoms, but is legislation that has its basis in illegality. C-51 is both unconstitutional - in that it contravenes the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms- and is in violation of the U.N. Covenant of Civil and Political Rights."

      Every Informed Canadian Citizen

      May 12, 2015 at 7:14am

      This is the worst government Canada has, and ever will, be subjected to: blatant and total disregard for the foundation upon which this land was built, cheating the democratic system, spending hundreds of millions of dollars fighting legislation their own experts know have less than a five per cent chance of not being challenged, changing the world's view of Canada as peacekeepers to the U.S. world police tag-along partner, and disenfranchising and silencing critics at every opportunity (and flat-out ignoring fact, truth, expert opinion and advice, Canadians' desires, etc.).

      Welcome to the beginning of the end for Canada, unless we exercise our social responsibility to get our friends, family, acquaintances, and strangers on the street to inform themselves of the irreparable harm that is being done to our great nation under our noses and vote for the most-likely party to oust these lying, cheating, despicable, fear-mongering human puppets.

      We cannot split the vote again; two-thirds of voters voted against these clowns and with their majority they have been eroding Canadian values for far too long. We have a responsibility to the nation to inform ourselves and each other and correct our path before even more damage is done.

      Please Canada: don't CONdemn us all in the Fall.

      _abf_

      Jun 9, 2015 at 6:22pm

      You're right. I never thought I would have to be afraid here. I am now - for the same reasons you are.