Bill C-51 Wants to Protect You From Terrorism- But at What Cost?

March 17, 2015

We can all agree on the importance of protecting our country, and our citizens, from the violence and unrest of terrorism. Two events last fall involving slain Canadian soldiers on home soil- one at Parliament Hill and another in a parking lot in Quebec- spurred heated discussions and proposed policy amendments to better prevent terrorist plots before they start.

Bill C-51, unveiled January 30th, is the most recent legislation being added to the Conservative government’s  “tough on crime” agenda. The bill seeks to expand the power of spy and police agencies to purportedly allow them intervene earlier on terrorist actions. In short, Bill C-51 will:

- Expedite information transfer between federal agencies like Revenue Canada and Passport Canada in any circumstances deemed to “undermine the security of Canada”.
- Make it easier for authorities to deny travelers boarding a plane
- Criminalize the “promotion” of terrorism and make it easier for police to make preventative arrests
- Provide CSIS with unprecedented power to “disrupt threats”, including communication with a suspect’s family and friends
- Make it easier to protect classified information in immigration hearings, including removing non-Canadians who pose a security risk
As a Canadian citizen, I understand some of the valid concerns surrounding our protection from terrorism or other acts of violence. But I am even more concerned as a citizen, and as Criminal Defence Lawyer in Toronto, in that I can easily see the ways in which Bill C-51 could become a slippery slope; protecting us from supposed “threats against our freedom” while simultaneously stripping us of some of our most essential individual rights. I’m not alone in this opinion- in fact, a group of four prominent former Prime Ministers including Joe Clark, Jean Chretien, John Turner, and Paul Martin have been vocal in their concerns, saying the bill lacks accountability and could lead to public safety and human rights issues. This past weekend, demonstrations were held across the country, with thousands of Canadian citizens voicing their opposition to the bill.

It’s been noted that the bill does not limit how long agencies will be allowed to store our personal information. And that information will be more easy to collect, given that one implication of the bill is that border guards will have increased power to comb through travelers’ computers and Smartphones.

Given my experience practicing Criminal Defence Law in Toronto, I have concerns about Bill C-51 leading to the sharing of sensitive personal information and infringing upon some of my clients’ most basic rights. It’s not a far leap to predict an increase in arbitrary arrests with the unprecedented power being given to spy and police agencies to take “preventative” action.

If you have been subject to arbitrary arrest or other “interferences” upon your daily activities from the police or some other government agency, it is critical that you secure legal representation quickly to assist you in your case. As a Criminal Defence Lawyer in Toronto, I have extensive experience dealing with cases involving wrongful detainment, and pride myself on being able to craft effective defence strategies to expedite the release of my clients. Contact my office today for a free, confidential consultation.

What are your concerns about Bill C-51? Do you feel it will protect your rights and freedoms, or diminish them?


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