Stephanie Whitecloud-Brass column

Imagine getting an open invitation on social media to come join in on a flash mob gathering at your local mall to support or rally against let’s say, an important environmental issue. You attend and enjoy being one of many who share the same desire to advocate such a specific cause.

Photos of you are uploaded and tagged onto Facebook or Twitter and unknowingly, you have left your imprint at the scene for all to see, including members of the RCMP and CSIS (the Canadian Security Intelligence Service).

Under Bill C-51, would this gathering be deemed an “unlawful protest” if no permit was issued?  Would it be deemed a “terrorist activity” or better yet, an activity that would “undermine the security of Canada” if its stance pertains to affecting or disrupting the federal economy?  Would you and every other person present be considered, a ”terrorist?”

I certainly hope not, but when legislation is drafted in vague and broad terms, like that in Bill C-51, one is left to believe that much will be open to interpretation by the agency given authority to enforce it without any additional or independent oversight.

It’s time to take a moment and really think about what “Bill C-51” is and what it could potentially mean for you, me and every other citizen in this country.

Bill C-51, the Anti-terrorism Act, has been drafted and tabled by the Conservative government.  Its purpose is to effectively give CSIS more power and authority over foiling the plans or actions of suspected terrorists in light of the murders of two Canadian soldiers in Ottawa last October.

As an omnibus bill, it proposes to “enact the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act and the Secure Air Travel Act, to amend the Criminal Code, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act and to make related and consequential amendments to other Acts.”  As if to say, “Oh yeah, that’s all it does.”  Sheesh!  So, what does it all mean, generally speaking?

By enacting the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act, the federal government will have a greater ability to share information and personal data within and amongst its own institutions all in the name of targeting activities that “undermine the security of Canada.”

Hold on!  Don’t we have to consent to the sharing of any information or personal data that pertains to us and what do these activities include/exclude?  Last time I checked, we were supposed to be respected and protected by laws governing privacy.

The Secure Air and Travel Act will authorize the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness to create a list of people, who will be identified through a “new legislative framework”, as those for authorities and air carriers to look out for and potentially keep off of airplanes.

I can only assume that the “new legislative framework” is connected with the government’s greater ability to share information within its various departments however, I stand to be corrected.  Regardless, an increase in racial profiling and acts of discrimination are a few things that come to mind when I think about this Act.

In amending the Criminal Code, Bill C-51 will make it easier for the RCMP to receive and impose upon a person, a recognizance to keep the peace in relation to a terrorist activity or offence.

As I understand it, under current law, the RCMP have to hold a reasonable belief that someone “will commit” a terrorism offence.  If Bill C-31 passes and becomes law, then this will change to “may commit”, giving the RCMP much broader discretion to deem and treat a person as a “terrorist.”

Furthermore, amendments will allow for judges to order the seizure of “terrorist propaganda” and if this happens to be on websites, then one can be ordered to remove it.  And not that the majority of us would, but don’t even think about advocating or encouraging the commission of a “terrorist act” because that will become an offence, too.

Given what is proposed, I am left in wonderment as to where we live and what is happening to our so-called “freedoms”; freedoms that are afforded and guaranteed by Charter.

It’s not enough for me to know the plain text version of what is being defined in the proposed bill.  I want to know more about who and what the drafters had in mind when they started spit-balling this Act.  This could have been achieved through meaningful dialogue and consultation with not just the First Nation collective, but with Canadian constituents generally.

I have no issue with making the world a safer place, but not at the expense of human rights!

And frankly, I am tired of seeing these omnibus bills pop up, especially given the controversy ignited with Bill C-38 and Bill C-45 in 2012.  Like many of you, I am sure, I am tired of simply being told that this is now the way it’s going to be.

Whatever happened to democracy?

(Editors note: recent media reports out of Ottawa suggest the Harper government will make changes to Bill C-51.  treaty4news.com will bring the latest information as it becomes available.)

Stephanie Whitecloud-Brass is a member of the Standing Buffalo Dakota Nation. You can reach Stephanie at (306) 956-6705 or email her at swbrass@jcwblawoffice.com

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