RCMP Planning Mass Arrest Of Indigenous Activists Under Bill C-51, Supporters Warn

ThinkPol is reporting the RCMP are preparing to carry out Bill C51 arrests at Unist’ot’en camp:

The RCMP are preparing to carry out a mass arrest operation against the indigenous Unist’ot’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation in northwestern BC under Harper government’s Bill C-51 labelling as terrorists First Nations activists exercising their Aboriginal Title and Rights to protect their lands from oil and gas development, according to a joint statement by the groups supporters.

The Conservatives’ controversial anti-terror act criminalizes protests that may be seen as interfering with ‘the economic or financial stability of Canada’ and opponents of the bill had long feared that it would be used to stifle opposition to oil pipelines aggressively promoted by Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

The RCMP have made a number of visits to the Unist’ot’en as well as other First Nations leadership regarding the Unist’ot’en camp, located on the shores of the Wedzin Kwah and mouth of the Gosnell Creek, tributaries to the Skeena, Bulkley, and Babine Rivers.

The activists have been protesting against the proposed Enbridge Pipeline and Pacific Trails Pipeline (Chevron), which are planned to cross the river at the exact points of our Pithouse, and Permaculture Garden that was built on the Unist´ot´en Territory of Talbits Kwah.

Today over fifty individuals and organizations have issued a letter to the provincial government, federal government and RCMP to express support for the Unist’ot’en Camp.

“The courageous stand taken by the Unist’ot’en and their supporters must not be criminalized by the RCMP nor targeted by government,” states Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians. “Through the draconian Bill C51, the federal government is attempting to brand people defending the land and water as ‘security threats.’ The Unist’ot’en are heroes, while the real threat is this government destroying the planet and economy.”

Signatories to this letter include the Union of BC Indian Chiefs, First Nations Summit, BC Assembly of First Nations, Greenpeace Canada, Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 718, Idle No More, Council of Canadians, Earthkeepers: Christians for Climate Justice, Defenders of the Land, David Suzuki, Unifor’s Western Director Joie Warnock, Elizabeth May, Naomi Klein.

“Why is the Senior Command of the RCMP so hell bent on deliberately provoking a conflict between themselves and the Indigenous Peoples of British Columbia?” Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of BC Indian Chiefs asked. “Are they taking these instructions from Premier Christy Clark or Prime Minister Harper?”

Since 2009, the Unist’ot’en have maintained a camp by Wedzin Kwah (Morice River) that is blocking seven pipelines that do not have Unist’ot’en consent to use their land.

On August 15th, 2015, in accordance with Wet’suwet’en laws, the Unist’ot’en Declaration was unanimously signed by five Unist’ot’en chiefs and affirms the continuous governance of the Unist’ot’en.

The letter notes, “We denounce any attempt by the federal government, provincial government or RCMP to interfere in the rights of the Unist’ot’en to occupy, manage or maintain their lands…We expect any and all actions taken by the federal and provincial government, industry and policing agencies to be consistent with the Unist’ot’en Declaration and the jurisdiction of the Unist’ot’en Clan.

http://thinkpol.ca/2015/08/28/rcmp-planning-mass-arrest-of-indigenous-activists-under-bill-c-51-supporters-warn/

Bill C-51 Has Potential To Scoop Up Aboriginal Rights Activists

A woman kneels in front of a line of police officers while protesting fracking in Elsipogtog, N.B., in October 2013. 'First Nations are on a collision course with federal and provincial governments, as well as pipeline and resource companies as they encroach on traditional lands,' writes Doug Cuthand. (Photo by Ossie Michelin)

A woman kneels in front of a line of police officers while protesting fracking in Elsipogtog, N.B., in October 2013. ‘First Nations are on a collision course with federal and provincial governments, as well as pipeline and resource companies as they encroach on traditional lands,’ writes Doug Cuthand. (Photo by Ossie Michelin)

By Doug Cuthand for CBC News

This week the Harper government rammed the anti-terrorism bill through Parliament with its third and final reading. All that remains is a short stop in the Senate and on to royal ascent.

Bill C-51 is a legislative drift net that has a reach far beyond its immediate target of radical Islamic terrorism.

It has the potential to scoop up environmentalists, aboriginal rights activists, union members and anyone who is seen to stand in the way of national security.

Is that assessment over the top? I don’t think so.

First Nations are on a collision course with federal and provincial governments, as well as with pipeline and resource companies as they encroach on traditional lands, particularly in British Columbia.

The act’s interpretation states that it applies to any activity that “undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada or the lives or the security of the people of Canada.”

This includes the following: “Interference with the capability of the Government of Canada in relation to intelligence, defence, border operations, public safety, the administration of justice, diplomatic or consular relations, or the economic or financial stability of Canada.”

'Under this legislation, Mohawk protesters who blocked the 401 would be branded as terrorists,' says Doug Cuthand. (Frédéric Pepin, CBC/Radio-Canada)

‘Under this legislation, Mohawk protesters who blocked the 401 would be branded as terrorists,’ says Doug Cuthand. (Frédéric Pepin, CBC/Radio-Canada)

This is casting a pretty wide net. Assembly of First Nations National Chief PerryBellegarde has expressed his organization’s opposition to the bill.

Under this legislation, Mohawk protesters who blocked the 401 would be branded as terrorists.

The First Nations elders and family members who set up a barricade of lawn chairs on the CPR main line in British Columbia could be considered terrorists. Oka, of course, would be a terrorist act.

The confrontation between the RCMP and Mi’kmaq protesters in 2013 at Elsipogtog, N.B., led to more than 40 arrests and the destruction of police vehicles. Under Bill C-51, this could be considered a terrorist act.

In British Columbia, a group of First Nations activists in the Tsilhqot’interritory have established the Unist’ot’en Camp, which is built in the proposed right of way for the Gateway Pipeline. If that pipeline ever gets approval, will these people be branded as terrorists and subject to the arrest and overreach of Bill C-51?

Repressive legislation serves as pressure cooker

As each year rolls by, there is growing awareness and increased activism in Indian country. Repressive legislation will only serve to act as a pressure cooker and both create and define more activists.

Kinder Morgan protesters

Kinder Morgan protesters in a standoff with Burnaby RCMP as police try to move the protesters further away from their encampment in November 2014. (Sea Shepherd Conservation U-Stream)

Under this legislation, police forces will have the power to detain people they suspect of planning to break the law. The Canadian Security Intelligence Service will have new powers of arrest as well, effectively making it the equivalent of a secret police force.

In the past, CSIS was an intelligence-gathering agency that shared information with the RCMP, which carried out the arrest of individuals and seizure of evidence.

The government maintains that the legislation is aimed at Islamic jihadists, which Harper portrays as hiding behind every tree in Canada. To combat this perceived threat, the government created Bill C-51, which opens CSIS up to a whole new ball game.

Language of bill questioned

Nobody is going to argue that we don’t need to defend ourselves against terrorists, but the language of this bill is so broad the definition of “terrorist” is watered down to individuals that practise their legal right to dissent.

There are numerous simmering disputes all across Indian country, and if demonstrations occur in the future, how will they be treated under this legislation?

One thing starts to emerge as we look at this ominous bill. The government is preparing an arsenal of legislation to counteract future action by First Nations people to protect our land, resource and environmental rights.

‘The government needs to slow things down and dial back the panic.’– Doug Cuthand

This legislation has been opposed by academics, lawyers, human rights advocates and a large segment of the public, and yet they insist on forging ahead with few revisions and a minimum of debate.

The government needs to slow things down and dial back the panic. We have legislation to deal with those who break the law and commit acts of terrorism.

This legislation is far too broad and needs to undergo a serious rewrite with the input of all the public and opposition parties.

But I guess that is just so much wishful thinking. Bill C-51 is part of Harper’s campaign of fear to get re-elected.

Sadly, that fear has the potential to be spread to First Nations, environmentalists and any other group that can be used to create wedge issues and bring votes their way.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/aboriginal/bill-c-51-has-potential-to-scoop-up-aboriginal-rights-activists-1.3009664

Harper’s Anti-Terror Bill C-51 One Step Closer To Becoming Law

The Conservatives have tabled an anti-terror bill that will give Canada's spy agency more power to thwart suspected terrorists.

The Conservatives have tabled an anti-terror bill that will give Canada’s spy agency more power to thwart suspected terrorists.

 

With the support of federal Liberals, the Conservative government’s controversial anti-terror legislation passed the House of Commons Wednesday by a vote of 183 to 96.

Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau and NDP Leader Thomas Mulcair attended the vote, but Prime Minister Stephen Harper, who is in Europe, was absent.

After months of debate, Bill C-51 now heads to the Senate for final passage. The governor general is expected to give royal assent within weeks.

Several MPs took to Twitter to voice their opposition and blast Liberals for supporting the legislation.

https://twitter.com/RathikaS/status/596077351672373249

The bill will lower the threshold of evidence needed to label someone a threat to national security. It will also grant Canadian security and intelligence agencies more leniency when it comes to accessing and sharing information between departments.

Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney defended the legislation during a third-reading of the bill on Tuesday.

“Members have heard me many times saying that there is no liberty without security. I would add that there is no prosperity without security,” he said. On multiple occasions, the minister accused the NDP of failing to “call a spade a spade” in reference to the attack a gunman launched on Parliament Hill last year.

NDP public safety critic Randall Garrison responded by saying he was “disappointed” Blaney chose to use the forum as a platform to attack the opposition. He claimed the government was utilizing fear to push the legislation through.

“It was clear that the government intended to marshal the politics of fear to stampede Bill C-51 through the House,” said Garrison during the debate.

The NDP MP also criticized Liberals for supporting broad information-sharing “even though it presents a great threat to our civil liberties.”

Liberals announced earlier in the year they would support the proposed changes to the country’s anti-terror laws, but amend the legislation if they win the next election to, among other things, provide more oversight of national security agencies.

The omnibus legislation was presented the the House following the deaths of two Canadian soldiers, Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and Warrant Officer Patrice Cirillo in October.

The bill has attracted significant national and international attention from newspapers and civil liberties advocates.

The Globe and Mail’s editorial board published a column on Tuesday calling the bill is “as murky as ever” on the eve of its final vote.

“The government has never justified its need to weaken Canada’s constitutional protections. It has simply stated that it wants more powers to fight terrorism and then churlishly impugned the motives of anyone who has spoken out against Bill C-51,” it stated.

Earlier this year, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden weighed in on the sweeping measures proposed in the bill, warning Canadians to be “extraordinarily cautious.”

Federal privacy watchdog Daniel Therrien has also shared his concerns over inefficient measures within the bill’s current framework to wholly protect an individual’s’ personal information.

“All Canadians – not only terrorism suspects – will be caught in this web,” Therrien wrote in a March briefing note. “The implications for privacy are serious – especially when we are talking about the highly sensitive information that Canadians entrust to their government.”

He called the potential loss of privacy “clearly excessive.”

 

House Of Commons To Hold Final Vote On Anti-Terror Bill Tuesday

Canada's spy agency is getting new powers. Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS

Canada’s spy agency is getting new powers. Sean Kilpatrick / THE CANADIAN PRESS

By Ian MacLeod | Ottawa Citizen

The federal government’s controversial anti-terror legislation is set to pass in the House of Commons Tuesday on a whirlwind journey into the law books by the time Parliament recesses in June.

Since Bill C-51 was tabled Jan. 30, it has been fought over like few other government bills.

The Opposition NDP, supported by the Green Party, have attacked it at every opportunity, proposing dozen of unsuccessful amendments. The Liberals have vowed to vote for the bill, despite largely failing to win any significant amendments as hoped.

The Commons’ debate and voting on four mostly minor amendments to the bill were to conclude Monday. A final vote is to be held Tuesday.

The proposed set of laws would dramatically change the mandate and powers of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) from its current intelligence-collection-only role to one of actively reducing and disrupting threats to national security whether in Canada or globally.

The legislation criminalizes the promotion of terrorism, makes it easier for police to arrest and detain individuals without charge as suspected as national security threats, and much more. It also would allow more than 100 federal departments, agencies and other entities to share information about Canadians with 17 departments and agencies that have national security responsibilities. The information would only have to be “relevant” to a suspected national security threat. The 17 agencies also could share and collate information among themselves.

The government clearly wants to project an image of being capable and serious about protecting national security against the evolving scourge of terrorism and ever-sophisticated cyber attacks.

The Tories are rushing to enact it before Parliament’s scheduled June 23 summer recess. A Senate committee is now fast-tracking the legislation through the upper house.

Police, security agencies, prosecutors, Conservative MPs and several terrorism and security experts have strongly endorsed its sweeping reform of Canada’s national security laws, the biggest such overhaul since its progenitor, the Anti-terrorism Act of 2001, was rushed into law after the 2001 terror attacks in the United States.

The bill’s supporters, however, have been outnumbered by its critics. They include former prime ministers, former Supreme Court justices, business leaders and the Canadian Bar Association, civil liberty and privacy advocates, national security law scholars, aboriginals, environmentalists and many others. Their criticism has been backed by a series of cross-Canada demonstrations.

Critics accuse the government of launching an unprecedented attack Canadians’ personal freedoms and the nation’s legal traditions.

imacleod@ottawacitizen.com

Twitter.com/macleod_ian

http://ottawacitizen.com/news/politics/house-of-commons-to-hold-final-vote-on-anti-terror-bill-tuesday

Canadians Rally During A Second ‘National Day Of Action’ To Kill Bill C-51

Participants covered their mouths with tape to symbolize what they called the muzzling impact of the bill. David Kawai / Ottawa Citizen

Participants covered their mouths with tape to symbolize what they called the muzzling impact of the bill. David Kawai / Ottawa Citizen

By Black Powder | Red Power Media

Canadians rallied across the country on Saturday to oppose Bill C-51, just days before the legislation is scheduled to undergo a final vote in the House of Commons.

A second National Day of Action, took place in Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Ottawa, and more than two dozen other cities and towns.

About 300 protesters picketed the Prime Minister’s Office in Ottawa, their numbers bolstered as they marched to the U.S. embassy, chanting anti-Harper slogans and decrying the proposed bill.

“Kill the bill” chants echoed through Edmonton’s downtown as protesters spoke out against Bill C-51, also known as the federal anti-terrorism bill, that they say threatens the rights of Canadians.

The controversial anti-terror legislation was introduced by the Conservative government in January.

Many opponents of the bill argue that it could also be used to shut down environmental activists and lumps peaceful demonstrations in with terrorist activities.

Despite the outcry, the Conservative government insists that the anti-terror legislation arms law enforcement with the necessary tools to disrupt terror plots before they take place.

Bill C-51 would give CSIS the ability to expand no-fly list powers, allow police to have greater control in limiting the movement of a suspect and increase the amount of time they can be kept in preventative detention. It would also allow for increased intelligence sharing between law enforcement agencies.

Earlier this month, the Conservative Party said it will propose a handful of amendments to the bill.

The likely amendments include provisions to narrow what is considered terrorism-related activity, as well as a section to clarify that CSIS will not have power of arrest.

Changes are also expected to limit information-sharing.

Despite the proposed changes, many at Saturday’s rallies called for the entire bill to be scrapped.

The NDP and the Green Party oppose the anti-terror legislation, while Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau has said that his party will support it despite some reservations.

At demonstrations in Montreal last Month, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair said the party will be unwavering in their opposition to the bill, which he said “compromises” the rights and freedoms of Canadians.

He added that the bill’s scope is “too wide” and that existing legislation is already adequate.

The government majority guarantees the bill will pass and become law.

 

Why Bill C-51 Is A Threat To Aboriginal Rights

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By Matthew Coon Come | The Globe and Mail

In January, the federal government tabled Bill C-51, the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015. The bill has generated widespread uncertainty and concern. It fails to safeguard the dignity, human rights and security of indigenous peoples and individuals. It is inconsistent with good governance.

The bill would allow federal judges to grant Canada’s spy agency, CSIS, the right to violate any law of Canada, including the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Such permission would be granted in a secret hearing with no appeal. Only the government side would be represented.

The bill contemplates the global sharing of information obtained by CSIS, which may or may not be accurate. International human rights law is not considered. This directly contradicts Canada’s international commitments. Last December, the UN General Assembly affirmed by consensus that states must ensure that “any measure taken to combat terrorism complies with all their obligations under international law … in particular … human rights”.

Disputes relating to indigenous peoples should not be criminalized, especially through anti-terrorism legislation. Indigenous peoples are human rights defenders and our issues often include environmental, natural resource development and other essential concerns. For example, in Quebec, the James Bay Crees continue to oppose uranium mining, but such democratic protest is fully accepted by the provincial government. We are not being criminalized or spied upon. Bill C-51 could change this.

Important lessons on “security” can be learned from Canada’s history. The security and human rights of indigenous peoples have been, and continue to be, severely impacted by non-indigenous governments and other third parties. A non-discriminatory approach would require that the “security of Canada” be inclusive of all peoples, including indigenous peoples.

Security is a human right. This right of indigenous peoples includes: environmental security; food security; economic security; social security; cultural security; human security; and territorial security. The 2003 Declaration on Security in the Americas affirms: “the traditional concept and approach must be expanded to encompass new and non-traditional threats, which include political, economic, social, health, and environmental aspects.”

Environmental, cultural and other dimensions of security are reflected in the landmark ruling of the Supreme Court in Tsilhqot’in Nation v. British Columbia. The Court emphasized the fiduciary duty of the Crown and added: “… incursions on Aboriginal title cannot be justified if they would substantially deprive future generations of the benefit of the land.” This has far-reaching implications for the security of indigenous peoples, particularly in the contexts of resource development and climate change.

In the past nine months, the federal government has not publicly acknowledged the indigenous victory in Tsilhqot’in Nation. Bill C-51 fails to consider “security” from the perspectives and inherent human rights of indigenous peoples. The rights, security and well-being of present and future generations of indigenous peoples must be ensured.

Since its election in 2006, the federal government has refused to acknowledge within Canada that indigenous peoples’ collective rights are human rights. In November, 2010, Canada endorsed the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. The federal government concluded: “We are now confident that Canada can interpret the principles expressed in the Declaration in a manner that is consistent with our Constitution and legal framework.”

The Declaration is a consensus, universal international instrument. No country in the world formally objects to it. The Declaration applies to all indigenous peoples globally. It promotes harmonious and co-operative relations between states and Indigenous peoples. It affirms our right to live in freedom, peace and security as distinct peoples and our right to our lands, territories and resources.

At the 2014 World Conference on Indigenous Peoples, an Outcome Document was adopted by consensus by the General Assembly. The centerpiece of the document is the Declaration. However, Canada indicated that it could not support the commitment by states to “uphold the principles of the Declaration”.

Such a position has no credibility. It fails to uphold the honour of the Crown and constitutes bad faith. The government of Canada has a legal obligation to uphold indigenous peoples’ human rights, including those affirmed in the Declaration. Bill C-51 undermines this duty and threatens our security and well-being.

Matthew Coon Come is the Grand Chief of the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee) and the Chair of the Cree Nation Government.

Matthew Coon Come

                          Matthew Coon Come

Anti-terror Bill C-51 to be changed as Tories respond to criticism

The government is set to propose amendments to Bill C-51, including an amendment to make it clear that CSIS agents would not have the power to arrest people. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

The government is set to propose amendments to Bill C-51, including an amendment to make it clear that CSIS agents would not have the power to arrest people. (Graham Hughes/Canadian Press)

CBC News

The government will propose a handful of amendments to the proposed anti-terror bill when it goes to clause-by-clause review on Tuesday, CBC News has learned, including a proposal that would protect protests from being captured by the new measures.

“Many witnesses were concerned that by saying “lawful” protests would not be considered terrorist acts, it meant that protests which were not necessarily terrorist, but not necessarily legal, could be,” CBC News correspondent Chris Hall explained in an interview on CBC News Network on Friday afternoon.

“For example, incidents of chaining yourself to a fence to protest, a logging decision or mine development.”

That section will be changed to narrow the scope of what might be captured as a terrorist-related activity, he said.

The government will also put forward an amendment to make it clear that CSIS agents would not have the power to arrest people.

Other government-backed changes in the works include limits to information-sharing and adjusting a provision that would have given the public safety minister the power to direct air carriers to do “anything” that, in the minister’s view, is “reasonably necessary” to prevent a terrorist act.

Sources have told CBC News that the Tories will propose four amendments. They could also vote to reject particularly problematic elements during clause-by-clause review.

“As we have said for many weeks, we are open to amendments that make sense and that improve the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015,” a senior government official told CBC News.

New Democrats waiting to see amendments

Thus far there is no indication the government will heed the calls for increased oversight.

The Tories could, however, introduce separate legislation to expand the mandate and boost the powers of the Security Intelligence Review Committee that oversees CSIS.

Both the New Democrats and the Liberals have already served notice that they plan on putting forward amendments as well, the bulk of which would go further than what the government will propose.

NDP deputy public safety critic Rosane Doré Lefebvre told CBC News that her party will wait to see the proposed amendments before deciding whether to support the changes.

“Initially, the prime minister and Stephen Blaney said it was ‘ridiculous’ for Tom Mulcair and the NDP to criticize this bill, and now they’ve been forced to change their tune,” she added.

“Unlike the Liberals, we decided to stand by our principles and oppose this bill. We put pressure on the Conservatives to amend this bill and they finally gave in.”

She says the NDP will continue to oppose the bill, as “it goes too far and undermines Canadians’ rights and freedoms.”

The House public safety committee will begin clause-by-clause review on Tuesday.

Bill C-51: Aboriginal Activists Want Anti-Terror Bill Scrapped

Pam Palmater and Toronto police inspector Steve Irwin at public safety committee.

Pam Palmater and Toronto police inspector Steve Irwin at public safety committee.

The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – The federal government’s omnibus security bill would hand extremists what they want by shackling civil liberties, a prominent aboriginal lawyer and activist says.

There is no way to fix the legislation, which “makes us all suspects,” said Pamela Palmater, chair in indigenous governance at Toronto’s Ryerson University.

“The terrorists will have won,” Palmater said during a meeting of the House of Commons public safety committee, which is hearing more than 50 witnesses on the bill.

“And what is terrorism? Fundamentally, it’s the denial of life, liberty and security of the person. If Canada goes ahead and takes those rights away, terrorists just have to sit back: job done.”

The Conservatives brought in the 62-page bill following the murders of two Canadian soldiers just days apart last October by men whose motives were rooted in extremist thinking.

The legislation would give the Canadian Security Intelligence Service the ability to actively disrupt terror plots, make it easier for police to limit the movements of a suspect, expand no-fly list powers, crack down on extremist propaganda and dismantle barriers to exchanging security-related information.

Neither the new disruptive powers nor the information-sharing provisions apply to “lawful” advocacy, protest and dissent, but some critics say these elements of the bill could be used against aboriginal and environmental activists who protest outside the letter of the law.

Palmater told the committee she is already routinely tracked by federal agencies that keep tabs on her involvement in aboriginal issues.

Conservative MP Diane Ablonczy stressed that “jihadi terrorists have declared war on Canada,” and she tried to dispel any notion the bill would be used to target legitimate dissent.

Fellow Conservative LaVar Payne dismissed concerns about the legislation’s information-sharing provisions as “conspiracy theories.”

The bill “isn’t really about terrorism,” but about preserving economic and power relations in Canada, Palmater said.

Citizens have worked too hard to create treaties, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and international laws that protect basic human rights to toss it all away “because we wanted to protect some corporate economic interests,” she added.

Her arguments were echoed by Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs, who said the bill would dangerously expand powers of Canada’s security agencies without making people any safer.

Phillip, who also called for withdrawal of the bill, accused the Harper government of retooling its policy-making efforts to foster natural-resource extraction.

Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, the president of the B.C. Union of Indian Chiefs, is escorted away by RCMP after he crossed into the injunction area around Kinder Morgan’s remaining active borehole on Burnaby Mountain. (image credit: Mario Bartel / Black Press)

Canadian spies can access Indian status records under Bill C-51: Public Safety

CSIS-WATCHING

By | APTN National News

RCMP investigators and Canadian spies would legally be able to access personal information found in Indian status records held by the federal Aboriginal Affairs department if the Harper government’s proposed anti-terror bill becomes law, according to Public Safety Canada.

A spokesperson for the federal Public Safety department confirmed Bill C-51’s changes to allow freer information sharing between federal departments and agencies on broadly defined national security grounds would include the personal information contained in the Indian status registry held by Aboriginal Affairs.

Public Safety spokesperson Josee Sirois said in an emailed statement to APTN  that information would be shared only if “it relates to an activity that undermines the security of Canada, such as terrorism, espionage, or weapons proliferation.”

The actual wording in the information sharing section of Bill C-51, however, provides a broader criteria allowing for the sharing of information. This particular section of the bill deals with the Security of Canada Information Sharing Act and encompasses any activity that “undermines the sovereignty, security and territorial integrity of Canada” along with the interference of border operations “or the economic or financial stability of Canada” and “interference with critical infrastructure.”

The definition of what constitutes a national security threat in this section of Bill C-51 “is new and far more expansive than previously known in Canada,” said human rights lawyer Paul Champ.

The Assembly of First Nations has expressed concerns this expansive definition would encompass First Nation protest and dissent activities associated with the defence and assertion of Aboriginal and treaty rights. Cree NDP MP Romeo Saganash has said Bill C-51poses a direct threat to Aboriginal rights for this same reason.

There is an extensive record of the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and the Canadian military monitoring First Nation events and individuals. APTN has already revealed the RCMP keeps an active file on former Idle No More organizer Clayton Thomas Muller, thatCSIS tracked the travel of Mohawk Clifton Nicholas and that the military’s counter-intelligence arm monitored Mi’kmaq anti-fracking protests near Elsipogtog in New Brunswick.

APTN also reported Wednesday that Aboriginal Affairs shared information with CSIS to bolster surveillance of Idle No More protests.

Bill C-51 empowers 17 federal departments and agencies, including the RCMP, CSIS and Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC), to obtain the personal information of Canadians held by any other federal department, including Aboriginal Affairs, on broadly defined national security grounds.

Aboriginal Affairs holds detailed personal information of everyone who is registered as a status Indian.

The Indian status record of an individual includes information on the names of any of their children, registration number and status, the names of any siblings, registration numbers and status and the names of their parents, registration numbers and status. The file also includes a family tree extending to their maternal and paternal grandparents.

The record also includes the name of their band, date of birth and when they activated their status. It includes information on whether they live on or off-reserve, marital status, marriage date, registration number of spouse, whether they are on a band list and category of status. Registration numbers include an individual’s order of birth.

Aboriginal Affairs has already been caught sifting through the Indian status record of child advocate Cindy Blackstock who took Ottawa to the human rights tribunal over its alleged underfunding of child and family services on reserve.

The federal department twice accessed Blackstock’s status record for reasons other than to update the file.

The Privacy Commissioner’s Office investigation in the accessing of Blackstock’s Indian status records hit a dead end because Aboriginal Affairs did not keep a log of officials who accessed the database.

Blackstock said Bill C-51 would allow the federal government to put a whole family under surveillance in one swoop.

“If you have a baby, that record is there and if that status file was accessed for the purposes of Bill C-51 then the baby’s personal information is now the subject of surveillance by the government of Canada,” said Blackstock. “They will have his or her gender, their full name, their date of birth and registry number.”

While Aboriginal Affairs and Justice Canada officials monitored Blackstock’s online and real-life activities, she said it was the accessing of her status record that really bothered her.

“That probably disturbed me more than anything else,” she said. “It is one thing for me as a human rights activist to be subject to this, it’s another thing when they are collecting information on your family or extended family.”

The Privacy Commissioner’s Office also confirmed that Health Canada’s information obtained through the Non-Insured Health Benefits (NIHB) for First Nation and Inuit could also be shared under Bill C-51. NIHB information would include details on prescription drug use along with dental and eye care issues.

“The 17 federal departments in question would be in a position to receive information about any or all Canadian’s interactions with government,” said a statement from Privacy Commissioner’s Office. “That would include the personal information…relating to status Indians and Inuit people.”

Health Canada said it could not provide a detailed list of the information it collects through the NIHB until Monday.

Blackstock said it appears the federal government may hold more information on those registered as a status Indians than other Canadians.

“I am filing my taxes, like a lot of us have, and I’ve applied for a passport. In neither of those situations have I been required to identify the name of my grandparents,” said Blackstock.

The Privacy Commissioner’s Office said it couldn’t say whether status Indians would be disproportionality affected under the proposed bill.

“While the federal government clearly holds a great deal of personal information related to Aboriginal people, we cannot comment on whether they could be disproportionately affected by the legislation,” it said in a statement.

jbarrera@aptn.ca

@JorgeBarrera

 

AFN National Chief Bellegarde – Withdraw Bill C-51 Anti-Terrorism Legislation

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde

By James Murray in Anishinabek | Net Newsledger

Withdraw C-51 and Consult Properly Says National Chief Bellegarde

OTTAWA – Assembly of First Nations (AFN) National Chief Perry Bellegarde today told the House of Commons Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security to withdraw Bill C-51, the proposed federal anti-terrorism legislation.

“I am calling on the government to withdraw this Bill and consult properly with First Nations about the impact of any such legislation on First Nations rights,” said National Chief Bellegarde.  “We believe in safety and security but the federal government’s rush to ram this legislation through is undemocratic and it violates our individual and collective rights.  First Nations will vigorously oppose any legislation that does not respect and protect our rights.”

The National Chief told the Committee that Bill C-51 sets up “conditions for conflict” by creating circumstances where First Nations people will be labelled as threats when asserting their rights as First Nations citizens.  National Chief Bellegarde said the Bill will infringe on First Nations’ rights to freedom of speech and assembly, the right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure, rights as peoples under section 35 of Canada’s 1982 Constitution which recognizes and affirms inherent Aboriginal rights and Treaty rights, and the right to self-determination, which includes the right to protect and make decisions about activities and laws affecting First Nation territories.  The National Chief stated that the legislation was developed in a way that does not meet the federal government’s duty to consult and accommodate First Nations and that makes it subject to legal challenge if the government tries to impose it.

The National Chief further recommended that Canada discuss with First Nations options for a review process to examine all federal legislation that could impact the assertion of rights recognized and affirmed in section 35 of the Constitution.

National Chief Bellegarde stated: “Because of our history, First Nations know better than anyone how easy it is for governments to ignore, erode and eradicate our most basic human rights and freedoms until you barely recognize the land you’re living in.  Canada must do better and it must do more to meet its constitutional and Treaty responsibilities to First Nations.”

Presentation to The Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security – Bill C-51

Bill C-51 is the subject of a great deal of commentary and controversy.  First Nations have a long history in this country of dealing with laws that threaten our rights so we are always on guard against any legislation that could affect our rights, our citizens and our traditional territories. 

The key issues at stake in Bill C-51 are the State’s power to place individuals or groups under surveillance, to monitor their everyday activities, to create criminal offenses that affect our ability to exercise our legally recognized rights, and the overall relationship of State power to fundamental human and Indigenous rights. 

On these issues, First Nations have expertise and hard experience to offer this Committee, the government and Canadians as a whole. 

First Nations people are often forced to take a stand against actions or initiatives by governments that refuse to respect or protect our rights.  These activities are often deemed “protests” when in fact we are only calling on Canada to obey its own laws, which include the recognition and affirmation of inherent Aboriginal rights and Treaties in Canada’s own Constitution. 

So at the core of this discussion for First Nations is the unfinished business of balancing federal and provincial laws and authorities with the inherent jurisdiction and sovereignty of First Nations.  At its core, this discussion is about reconciliation – reconciling Canada’s claims to sovereignty with our pre-existing rights, title and jurisdiction, and Canada’s Treaty obligations. 

We need to finish that work.  It is the way forward.  But until we do, First Nations as individuals and as nations will assert our fundamental civil and political rights.  We’ve had to do this many times in the past in the face of a history of imposed, oppressive laws – laws that we are always told are good for us and good for Canada.  But in fact they were outright attacks on our identity and our rights. 

We have suffered under laws that banned our cultural and spiritual practices, laws that denied our right to vote, laws that prevented us from going to court to fight for our rights, laws that gave the State the power to steal our children and assault their minds and bodies, to try and kill our languages and traditions.  We have been subjects of surveillance and suspicion, and seen as a threat for as long as this country has existed.  Why?  Because our cultures, values and laws place a priority on protecting the lands and waters, they place primacy on sharing and sustainability.  Canada knows that our existence as peoples and nations qualifies and calls into question its claims to absolute sovereignty.  But our people survived and prevailed over all the assaults against us because our ancestors and Elders stood up for our people and our rights. And this generation is not going to forsake our ability to protect our lands and territories and rights that has ensured our survival. 

We will continue to assert our inherent sovereignty and sacred responsibility to protect the land and the waters.  We have the right to be decision-makers in any activities that affect our lands and territories.  Our laws and legal traditions embrace a balanced view of security, development, environmental protection and fundamental rights.  We have deep and strongly held traditions that respect individual autonomy, freedom of speech and how to balance these for the collective good. Canada can learn from this. 

That is the history and perspective we bring to this Bill.  We believe in the right to safety and security but the federal government’s rush to ram this legislation through is undemocratic and it violates our individual and collective rights. 

We have many concerns with this legislation.  First, the proposed Security of Canada Information Sharing Act sets out an overly broad definition of “activity that undermines the security of Canada”.  We see this as a euphemism for an “excuse to spy on” First Nations when they exercise their collective and individual rights.  Our people could find themselves under increasing surveillance because of the broad, vague concepts and activities covered by this phrase. It clearly goes way beyond the current Criminal Code definition of “terrorist activity.” 

The ‘for greater certainty clause’ that excludes “lawful” advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression is not adequate to deal with complexities of the ongoing task of reconciling First Nations law and jurisdiction with Canada’s asserted sovereignty. 

This government often invokes the rule of law. We would like some rule of law that respects our constitutionally protected rights and our fundamental human rights. The days are gone when absolute parliamentary supremacy trumps human rights and First Nations rights.  But we still see this government struggling to accept the Constitution Act of 1982 – both Part 1, the Charter, and Part II which recognizes and affirms our Treaty and Aboriginal rights.  Both sets of rights are at stake in Bill C-51. 

First Nations maintain that Bill C-51 will infringe our freedom of speech and assembly, our right to be free of unreasonable search and seizure, our right to liberty, our fundamental rights as peoples under section 35 of the Constitution Act, 1982, our Treaty rights and our right to self-determination.  Our right to self-determination— recognized in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples— includes the right to protect and make decisions about activities and laws affecting our lands and waters.  But there is a balance between rights and security and we can find it through dialogue with one another as nations.  Unfortunately, the process for developing this legislation did not meet the federal government’s duty to consult and accommodate and on that point alone is subject to challenge in the courts if the government tries to impose it on us. 

Bill C-51 sets up conditions for conflict by creating conditions where our people will be labelled as threats – threats to critical infrastructure or the economic stability of Canada – when asserting their individual or collective rights as First Nations citizens. This is not an abstract argument for our people.  We’ve been labelled as terrorists when we stand up for our rights and our lands and our waters.  We can see how First Nations have been lumped in with terrorists and violent extremists when they are asserting their fundamental rights and jurisdiction as in the recently leaked RCMP memo entitled “Criminal Threats to the Canadian Petroleum Industry”.  I am submitting as part of this presentation. 

First Nations have an unmatched record as peaceful peoples in the face of the most appalling human rights abuses, which is particularly exceptional when we remember the unrelenting assaults on our values, laws, jurisdiction and fundamental human rights. 

We are peace-loving peoples but we will push back against assaults on our most basic liberties.  We stand with the many other Canadians who are not willing to forfeit their fundamental rights and freedoms, who are demanding that this government engage in more careful crafting of important legislation.  Canada must do better and must do more to meet its constitutional and Treaty responsibilities to First Nations. 

I leave you with a statement directed not just at this Committee but to all Canadians.  First Nations know better than anyone how easy it is for government to ignore, erode and eradicate our most basic human rights and freedoms until you barely recognize the land you’re living in

First Nations deserve better, Canadians deserve better.  We cannot turn our backs on our hard won human rights and we cannot turn our back on the Indigenous rights, Treaties and title on which this country was founded.  We can do better and we must do better. 

First Nations will vigorously oppose any legislation that does not respect and protect our rights.   First Nations will stand up for the rights of our people and our responsibilities to our traditional territories.  

 We make the following recommendations: 

1)   That the Government withdraw the Bill and consult properly with First Nations about its impacts on our rights.

2)    That the Government discuss with First Nations options for a review process to examine all federal legislation that can impact the assertion of our section 35 rights.