Bill C-51, The Anti-Terrorism Act, forms the core of the most comprehensive reforms to the Canada ’s national security laws since 2001. Widely expanded powers and new criminal offences raise serious human rights concerns including:
- A vague definition of “threats” that could include a wide range of protest activity that may not be lawful, but is certainly not criminal.
- Asking Federal Court judges to authorize CSIS “threat reduction” activities that could include human rights violations in Canada and in other countries.
- Suppressing freedom of expression by making it a crime to advocate or promote the commission of terrorism offences “in general”.
- Lowering the threshold for, and extending the duration of, preventative detention without charge.
- Expanded information-sharing without sufficient safeguards to prevent the sharing of unreliable,
inaccurate, or inflammatory information domestically and
- Inadequate appeal procedures for individuals who find their names on no-fly lists.
- No increased review or oversight of increasingly complex national security activities.
Governments have not only the right, but the responsibility to respond to concerns about threats and attacks – including terrorism – and protect their citizens. But not at any cost.
Recent history is all too full of examples on every continent of what can happen when security laws and practices disregard human rights: torture and ill-treatment, indefinite detention, unfair trials, unlawful killings, irresponsible arms transfers, civilian casualties, profiling and other forms of discrimination, and crackdowns on protest and dissent.
Canada’s own complicity in a number of cases including Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati, Muayyed Nureddin, Omar Khadr, Abousfian Abdelrazik, and Benamar Benatta remains unresolved.