David Christopher, over at rabble.ca, writes:
After all, Bill C-51 represents one of the most dangerous assaults on Canadians' basic rights that this country has ever seen. It turns the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) into what The Globe and Mail described as a "secret police force," with little oversight or accountability. It opens the door for violations of our Charter Rights, including, as Margaret Atwood and over 450 artists and creators have warned, our right to free speech and free expression. And it empowers spy agencies to conduct dragnet surveillance and information sharing on innocent citizens, prompting strong criticism from the Privacy Commissioner that all Canadians will be "caught in this web."
It's clear, too, that spy agencies are already exploiting the sweeping new powers bestowed upon them by Bill C-51. As Jim Bronskill of the Canadian Press wrote earlier this year, at least four federal agencies, including CSIS, are already using the legislation to gain access to Canadians' private information. And CSIS head Michel Coulombe recently told parliamentarians that his agency has already used C-51's extraordinary "disruption" powers over two dozen times without seeking judicial approval.
It's long past time, he writes, to make changes. Lawrence Martin, in today's Globe and Mail, thinks that there will be few changes made to the legislation:
The Liberals don’t want to do anything until the U.S. election is over. If Donald Trump becomes president (a doubtful prospect), all hell breaks lose. Security policy, border policy, immigration policy south of the border would be overhauled. Ottawa would have to respond in a manner considerably different than it would if Hillary Clinton wins the Nov. 8 vote.
And, with the rising tide of terrorist attacks around the world, people are scared:
Justin Trudeau did not want to be seen as being soft on terror when the Harper government brought in C-51, which was in response to consecutive terror incidents on domestic soil. The Liberals backed the bill and sought cover with the promise of amendments. But given the climate of the times, given the recent spate of terrorist atrocities, they now feel a new need to be cautious.
Christopher assesses the public mood differently:
Against this backdrop, it's no wonder that Canadians are growing impatient at the lack of action from the government to date. Writing in iPolitics, columnist Michael Harris points out that the Liberals promised last October that C-51 would be "overhauled without delay," and calls on "Team Trudeau to get going on the hearings." Amnesty International's Alex Neve is also keen to get moving, telling Ottawa Citizen readers that "as long as C-51 remains untouched, so too do its many human rights shortcomings."
The public consultation process is the last, best chance to change the bill. Except, to date, that process is moribund. And the clock is ticking. It's time to take on Bill C-51.