Kent Roach & Craig Forcese: Press the reset button on security

Always worth reading, and likely one of the first in a series of ‘transition advice’ should there be a change of government:

The problem is, however, that our anti-terrorism dilemmas are more acute than “C-51 good; C-51 bad.” To be sure, we believe strongly that it is bad. It infringes the Charter rights of Canadians without appreciable security gains.

That said, Canadians are right to be concerned about terrorism. A close examination of the data suggests it is not an existential threat, but it is a real one. Terrorist attacks are overt acts of political violence, the scope and lethality of which are limited only by the capacity and imagination of their perpetrators. They are unpredictable and designed to make us do things, or at the very least fear things. Terrorism is a conscious assault on freedom, in a way that is dramatically different from the accidental perils of living. Such conduct demands a response from the state.

But Canadians are also right to be concerned about the freedoms sacrificed by C-51. They should be even more alarmed that those rights are sacrificed unnecessarily, for no appreciable security gain. And they should be especially concerned that no party has so far shown itself prepared to grapple with the real problems that ail anti-terrorism efforts in Canada.

In our new book, False Security: The Radicalization of Canadian Anti-terrorism, we urge that C-51’s misguided “quick fixes” are no substitute for efficient terrorism investigations and prosecutions leading to convictions and meaningful prison terms for terrorism offences. They are also no substitute at the front end for multi-disciplinary and community-based programs attempting to curb radicalization to violent extremism, including in prison.

Bill C-51, read in association with the earlier Bill C-44, runs the serious risk of undermining anti-terrorism efforts, while at the same time sacrificing elemental constitutional rights. But even if C-51 were swept from the earth, we would still have a woefully deficient anti-terrorism strategy. There are many reasons for this, but two stand out.

First, as compared to other democracies, Canadian terrorism prosecutions are unnecessarily unwieldy, complex and remarkably infrequent. The inquiry into the Air India bombings pointed urgently to the need to resolve this issue in its 2010 report, and also underscored long-standing (and still persisting) difficulties in the process by which CSIS intelligence can be used as evidence in criminal trials.

The government ignored the Air India report even in the face of decisions, like one from the famous Toronto 18 case, where a trial judge reported that, “CSIS was aware of the location of the terrorist training camp.… This information was not provided to the RCMP, who had to uncover that information by their own means.”

Any suggestion that C-51 fixes the structural reasons for this dangerous conduct is nonsense. It allows information to be shared about just about everything, but does not compel CSIS to share information about terrorism.

Second, Canada lags behind other democracies in developing multidisciplinary programs to counter violent extremism. Counter violence extremism initiatives require close attention, and then careful consideration of empirical evidence on how best to dissuade persons from moving toward political violence (or for those at risk of further radicalization in prison, disengage from it).

Bill C-51’s new speech crime, the government’s political messaging and its near exclusive focus on hard-nosed tactics without a meaningful overall anti-terrorism strategy are serious barriers to success.

Exactly what the parties would do in these and related areas if elected is unclear. Certainly, we welcome proposals for enhanced accountability review of the security services — long overdue and identified in detail by the Arar inquiry almost a decade ago. We support the idea of a more informed parliamentary process, including parliamentarians competent to review secret information. Our book outlines suggestions in both these areas.

But accountability reform alone is insufficient.

After Oct. 19, a government of some sort will take office. Canadians deserve a government willing to embrace complexity, and the maturity to step back from anti-terrorism as a subset of gotcha politics. There are members in each political party who share this ambition — we have spoken to them. We hope those voices are raised in the weeks to come.

Source: Kent Roach & Craig Forcese: Press the reset button on security

Douglas Todd: MP’s church comments not out of the ordinary

More on background and issues behind her remarks:

Vancouver South Conservative MP Wai Young’s contentious political remarks about Jesus and the Air India bombing are not out of the ordinary in some Canadian churches, says a specialist on evangelicals and Chinese Christians.

“They’re remarkably fascinating comments, but they’re not sensational,” said Justin Tse, a post-doctoral student at the University of Washington who earned his UBC PhD studying religion and trans-national migrants.

The evangelical pastors who head Harvest City Church in East Vancouver, where Wai spoke in late June, “felt her talk was so uncontroversial that they posted it on their website,” said Tse.

The national media is buzzing over comments Wai made during the service, in which she linked the federal Conservative party’s decision to launch anti-terrorist Bill C51 to the courage of Jesus Christ, “who served and acted to always do the right thing, not the most popular thing.”

Young, one of about 100,000 Chinese evangelical Christians in Metro Vancouver, also defended Bill C-51 by telling the Pentecostal congregation that Canada’s spy agency knew there was a bomb on the Air India flight that exploded over the coast of Ireland in 1985, killing 329 people, mostly Canadians. Young has retracted that statement. Her constituency office sent out a statement in which Young says she “misspoke,” adding “I regret this error.”

Tse said Young’s talk, one of others that she has made at Vancouver churches in recent months, was designed to appeal to evangelicals by portraying Jesus as a leader who “built community” — particularly one who did so within the framework of a “Conservative party ideology.”

Young’s talk at the church, Tse said, equated community and nationhood “with strong security.” The MP, a former provider of services to immigrants, stressed the importance of anti-terrorist legislation, firm borders, fighting crime and lowering taxes.

… Debra Bowman, the minister of Vancouver’s Ryerson United Church, echoed the views of many of Young’s critics when she urged the federal Conservatives to put as much effort into probing the charitable tax status of Tory-friendly churches as it does to auditing environmental and other non-profit groups.

“The thing I find really upsetting isn’t so much (Young’s) dreadful Christological claims for Harper’s Conservatives,” said Bowman. She was more concerned about the way the backbench MP appears to be flouting Canada Revenue rules on politically partisan activity by religious groups.

“I really hope someone will track whether (such churches) come under the same financial scrutiny that many justice-environment-church groups have been experiencing,” said Bowman.

Harvest City Church released a statement late Wednesday saying Young’s “comments were her own and Harvest City Church does not endorse her comments, nor any political party, nor does it endorse the use of its facility as a political platform.”

…Former federal Liberal cabinet minister Ujjal Dosanjh, who lost the predominantly Asian-immigrant riding to Young in 2011, said the Hong-Kong-born politician is a “well-meaning” backbench MP who would not have access to high-level information about Canada’s spy service or the Air India bombing.

While commenting that Young’s comparison of Jesus to the federal Tories amounts to “political pandering” that is “pretty far out,” Dosanjh focused on how he believes the Vancouver South MP made key mistakes in her analysis of the 1985 bombing of Air India Flight 182.

… Dosanjh said he cannot imagine any way that CSIS knew there was a bomb on the Air India plane. He also said the laws that existed in the mid-1980s did not bar CSIS from sharing such crucial security information.

With the rise of Sikh extremism in the 1980s, in which “Sikh temples in B.C. were used as bully pulpits by politicians and others,” Dosanjh said he became more and more convinced that no religious organization should be used for partisan political speeches.

Dosanjh said that period of time, in which he was severely beaten by Sikh extremists, “taught me that the separation of religion and state is very important. One should never make politically partisan statements in a religious institution. From my perspective she (Young) crossed the line. But I’m not picking on her. She’s not the only one. It happens frequently.”

Douglas Todd: MP’s church comments not out of the ordinary.

Foreign funds promoting ‘extreme Islamic jihadist’ views in Canada, Evolving terror threat justifies need for Bill C-51, national security advisor says

Always uncomfortable, given that some of our current allies in the fight against ISIS such as Saudi Arabia are a source of funding of fundamentalists and extremists:

Richard Fadden said the money often goes through religious institutions, which helps to shield it from further scrutiny.

“Without commenting on a particular country of origin, there are monies coming into this country which are advocating this kind of approach to life,” Mr. Fadden said on Monday before the Senate Committee on National Security and Defence. “Finding out where it all goes in the end, and for what purpose, is in fact quite difficult. A lot of these funds are directed through religious institutions, quasi-religious institutions, and it’s very difficult in this country to start poking about religious institutions, because of the respect that we have for freedom of religion.”

Mr. Fadden was answering a question from Conservative Senator Daniel Lang, who asked about the government’s response to funding from countries such as Saudi Arabia that promotes an “extreme jihadist” interpretation of the Koran.

Mr. Fadden said the federal government is aware of the problem, but noted that his discussions with allies have shown that “nobody has found a systemic solution.”

“The difficulty in most cases is that the monies are not coming from governments, they are coming from fairly wealthy institutions and individuals, which makes it doubly difficult to track,” he said.

In his appearance, Mr. Fadden argued that the evolving terror threat helps to justify the need for Bill C-51, the proposed anti-terrorism legislation.

“Our enemies have continued to refine their methods and adapt; so must we.”

Mr. Fadden said the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) needs new powers to disrupt potential terrorist activities, in addition to collecting intelligence on the threats facing Canada.

He said the goal of the new disruption measures is to allow CSIS to take action before criminal activities take place, arguing that the RCMP should not be called in these events.

“The police cannot get involved, by the nature of their work, if they cannot see something concrete in terms of criminal activity,” Mr. Fadden said. “Otherwise, we are living in a police state.”

The new disruption powers would allow CSIS to advise family members that someone is being radicalized to violence or take actions to neutralize a terrorist plot.

Mr. Fadden added the public and the media’s concerns over Bill C-51 are exaggerated, referring specifically to the notion that non-governmental organizations will become the target of counterterrorism agencies.

“A number of people in the media and elsewhere have been reported as saying, ‘The Girl Guides will be hit next.’ Well there has to be an actual threat to national security,” he said.

Too bad no question regarding Fadden’s views on the need for oversight (although he would not be in a position to speak other than the government line). His comments “otherwise we are living in a police state” are ironic given his silence on the oversight issue.

Evolving terror threat justifies need for Bill C-51, security adviser says – The Globe and Mail.

Stewart Prest: An informal coalition of experts has become the most effective opposition to the Tory government

Interesting piece on the emergence of coalitions to oppose recent government legislation:

Between C-51 and C-23, we are gaining a good sense of what an effective contemporary opposition coalition looks like. In both cases, participation has extended far beyond what might be called “typical” activism to include a range of principled, non-partisan and evidence-based opinions. Many members are drawn from civil society, but I would argue the coalition as a whole is not synonymous with it.

Key actors in both examples include academics working together in large groups, encompassing different disciplines and approaches; senior civil servants, both current and former; members of the legal profession; both partisan and non-partisan voices within what for lack of a better term I’ll call the country’s broader political class (former statesmen, editorial boards, columnists, and so on); maximal indigenous leaders; and dissenting voices within the country’s conservative movement.

Beyond studiously resisting appearances of partisanship, many within such coalitions have taken pains to note wherever possible ways in which their concerns might be addressed without undermining the government’s stated objectives. They attempt to remain politically neutral even in their opposition to the proposed legislation, seeking to offer the government advice on how to implement its preferred agenda while taking into consideration things like respect for human rights, the potential violations of the Charter, and important elements of political convention within the Canadian context, particularly those associated with maintaining the integrity and legitimacy of the Canadian political system as a whole.

Stewart Prest: An informal coalition of experts has become the most effective opposition to the Tory government

Bill C-51 hearings: Diane Ablonczy’s questions to Muslim group ‘McCarthyesque’

How does the Government seriously think that this ongoing line of unsubstantiated allegations helps increase cooperation with Canadian Muslim groups and Canadian Muslims in generally in helping reduce the risk of radicalization and violent extremism?

Just reinforcing previous examples of divisive language and the lack of a de-radicalization strategy on “soft” measures to reduce what are real risks:

During a question-and-answer session following National Council of Canadian Muslims executive director Ihsaan Gardee’s presentation to the House public safety committee on Bill C-51, Diane Ablonczy used her allotted time to “put on the record” what she described as “a continuing series of allegations” that the NCCM has ties to groups that have expressed support for “Islamic terrorist groups,” including Hamas.

“I think it is fair to give you an opportunity to address these troubling allegations,” Ablonczy said.

“In order to work together, there needs to be a satisfaction that, you know, this can’t be a half-hearted battle against terrorism. Where do you stand in light of these allegations?”

Gardee pushed back.

Ihsaan Gardee, the executive director of the National Council of Canadian Muslims, told Diane Ablonczy that her line of questioning Thursday was “entirely based on innuendo and misinformation.” (CBC News)

“First and foremost, I’ll say on the record that NCCM has condemned violent terrorism and extremism in all of its forms, regardless of who perpetrates it for whatever reason,” he told the committee.

“However, the premise of your question is false, and entirely based on innuendo and misinformation.”

Gardee pointed to the group’s history as an independent, non-profit, grassroots Canadian Muslim civil liberties organization with a “robust and public” track record.

“These are precisely the types of slanderous statements that have resulted in litigation that is ongoing,” he said, including a defamation lawsuit launched last year against the Prime Minister’s Office over “false statements” linking the group to Hamas made by now-former spokesman Jason MacDonald.

“The NCCM is confident that the courts will provide the necessary clarity on these points to ensure they are never repeated again,” he said. “The NCCM is not going to submit to a litmus test of loyalty used against Canadian Muslims and their institutions… which underlie such offensive questions.”

“McCarthyesque-type questions protected by parliamentary privilege are unbecoming of this committee,” he said, referring to a style of questioning used by U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, imputing guilt with little or no evidence to back it up.

In response, Ablonczy mused that Gardee seemed to have been prepared for her question — as, she said, she thought he might be — before switching topics to hear his thoughts on effective anti-radicalization initiatives.

Bill C-51 hearings: Diane Ablonczy’s questions to Muslim group ‘McCarthyesque’ – Politics – CBC News.

Canada stands with peaceful Muslims, Kenney says

In contrast to the PM’s messaging and wedge politics on security, radicalization and Canadian Muslims, and the Conservative Party’s fundraising machine, Minister Kenney borrow from President Obama’s language:

Kenney, who is also Harper’s longtime multiculturalism minister, noted the cost borne by Muslims facing extremist elements around the world.

“The vast majority of the victims of this dystopian vision of the caliphate from Nigeria to the Philippines are innocent, peaceful Muslim people who simply want to raise their families in peace and security,” Kenney told the Manning Networking Conference, a conservative policy gathering.

“And we stand with them, we stand with them around the world, we stand with them in Iraq today, we stand in defence of the vast majority of Muslims who reject this cult of violence. Canadians are in solidarity with them.”

Since the attacks this winter in France and in Denmark by Islamic extremists, the Tories have spoken out about their fight against “barbaric cultural practices” and against women who would cover their faces with the niqab during citizenship ceremonies. “Not the way we do things here,” read one Conservative party online message.

Harper referred specifically to mosques as places of radicalization, and unlike U.S. President Barack Obama has offered no messages of outreach to the Muslim community in the past several months.

“The prime minister of this country has a responsibility to bring people together in this country, not to divide us by pandering to some people’s fears,” Liberal Leader Justin Trudeau said recently.

Harper’s office pointed to a speech the Prime Minister made in December in which he expressed gratitude to those Muslim Canadians who spoke out against attacks that killed soldiers in Ottawa and Montreal last year.

Kenney also rejected the suggestion the party has alienated Canadian Muslims, pointing out he is a frequent visitor to mosques and islamic community organizations, and that his government has offered support against islamophobic vandalism and threats.

He also noted the help the community has offered in combating homegrown terrorism.

“We commend leaders and grassroots members of Canadian Muslim communities for having co-operated with police and intelligence services in reporting incidents or individuals who might be of concern,” said Kenney.

“Indeed our security and police agencies will confirm that potentially violent instances have been prevented, radicalization has been diminished thanks to the proactive co-operation of many in the Canadian Muslim communities so I think that message is clear.”

But it matters that this more inclusive language is made by a Minister, no matter how senior, rather than the PM himself, suggesting the triumph of wedge politics over the very real need, in any counter-radicalization strategy, to have the support of the Muslim communities.

Canada stands with peaceful Muslims, Kenney says – The Globeand Mail.

Interestingly, the Ottawa Citizen account of the speech neglected to mention any of these messages, focussing on Kenney’s hard-line messaging on the risks of further terrorist incidents (valid) and justification of C-51 (not).

Kenney says homegrown terrorism a ‘reality’ in Canada

New Anti-terrorism Bill May Fragment Community Relationships

Graham Hudson, in New Canadian Media, makes the valid point that much of the rhetoric and reality of C-51 may reduce the resilience within communities to combat radicalization and undermine some of the outreach efforts of the various police and security forces, key to increasing resilience:

The proposed advocacy or promotion of terrorism offence, for instance, will have a “chilling effect” on the communication of political and religious ideas within the Muslim community. While at first glance it may be seen as a net gain from the government’s perspective, fear of being associated with criminal activity may discourage community members from talking to each other about the issue of radicalization, interacting with high-risk persons in an effort to counter radicalization, or reporting information to police.  This will negatively impact the internal social dynamics of communities, including the viability of community-based programs, self-regulation and other means of “collective efficacy” that have been shown to help counter radicalization and facilitate integration into broader social networks.

New Anti-terrorism Bill May Fragment Community Relationships – New Canadian Media – NCM.

Anti-terrorism bill bars CSIS from committing ‘bodily harm,’ sexual violation

Sad that it has come to this that in granting additional powers, and specifying what is barred, while the intent is good, only underlines the risks of granting these powers and possible abuse, exacerbated by the lack of effective oversight:

Bill C-51 would allow CSIS to take measures within or outside Canada to reduce threats to the security of Canada, but doesn’t spell out exactly what those measures could be. The bill lists prohibited activities, barring CSIS from:

  • Intentionally or by criminal negligence cause death or bodily harm.
  • In any way trying to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice.
  • Violating the sexual integrity of an individual.

The bill ties “bodily harm” to its definition in the Criminal Code, which means any injury to a person that “interferes with the health or comfort of the person and that is more than merely transient or trifling in nature.”

Observers say it’s too early to know exactly what that section means. And, given the agency’s new ability to “disrupt” and to trigger preventative detention, they say further explanation is needed.

“We don’t know what the power to disrupt means. At first reading it seems that [CSIS] can do just about anything except bodily damage or assassination or sexual abuse,” said Roch Tassé, a spokesman for the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group​.

But there are other provisions that would let CSIS request a warrant to enter any place or open anything; search, copy, remove or return any record; install or remove anything; or “do any other thing that is reasonably necessary to take those measures.”

“Basically they’ll be allowed to break the law. They’ll go to a judge to get permission to break the law,” Tassé said.

Sukanya Pillay, executive director of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, said the section of the bill on CSIS is confusing because “we know that you can’t get a warrant to contravene the charter.”

The prohibitions on causing bodily harm and sexual violation are also troubling. she said, because it’s not clear what they mean.

Have we learned nothing from US abuse and terror?

Anti-terrorism bill bars CSIS from committing ‘bodily harm,’ sexual violation – Politics – CBC News.

Is Harper’s terror bill terrifying — or just redundant? – Kheiriddin

On the remarkable political cynicism of the Government with respect to security according to Tasha Kheiriddin:

So why have the Tories chosen to create new offences instead? Three words: the 2015 election. Enforcing existing legislation isn’t sexy. You can’t take ownership of Section 46 of the Criminal Code — it’s been there for years. But you can talk ad nauseum about the new tough anti-terror laws you’ve created. It’s perfect fodder for the doorstep and a great distraction from the dismal economy — and the Conservatives know it.

And public opinion polls suggest enough Canadians are on board to make this a winning issue. A recent Nanos survey found that 66 per cent of Canadians agree with the PM that we are at war with terrorists. Sixty-five per cent of respondents agreed that the “government should have the power to remove websites or posts on the Internet that it believes support the proliferation of terrorism in Canada.” Forty-eight per cent of Canadians feel the system is not up to the task at the moment, vs. 44 per cent who believe the situation is satisfactory.

Bill C-51 neatly taps into all these concerns, while leaving a major issue unadressed: Who will be watching the watchers? According to Ottawa, there’s enough oversight already. On CTV`s Question Period, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety Roxanne James said, “We are not interested in creating needless red tape.”

That’s a slap in the face to our Five Eyes allies, all of whom have more extensive oversight mechanisms in place. Creating such measures in Canada would not be a waste of money or admission of weakness. It would be a nod to common sense — especially since C-51 does not have a sunset clause, as previous anti-terror legislation did.

Bottom line: The new bill represents electioneering at its finest. While it improves intelligence-sharing and gives authorities more powers to detain suspected terrorists, it presents privacy concerns, curbs freedom of speech, and duplicates existing offences, while foregoing any increase in oversight.

Canada’s existing treason law — the one the Crown used to hang Louis Riel

The perils of counterterror overreach – Yakabuski

Valid points by Konrad Yakabuski:

Since the attacks, there have been more than 200 similar outbursts among students, mostly Muslim teenagers protesting during a new mandatory moment of silence in public schools in memory of the January terror victims. The French government’s response to this backlash from minority students is a 250-million-euro plan to enhance the teaching of “the values of the Republic” in public schools.

The measures also include designating Dec. 9 as a new official “Day of Secularism” in honour of the 1905 law enshrining the separation of church and state. The same law guarantees freedom of religion, but that aspect gets short shrift from the French establishment and opinion-makers, for whom the law is primarily a guarantee of freedom from religion.

If France was really being true to its republican values, however, it would be celebrating its pluralism after the attacks. The reason French law bans the collection of census data on race, ethnicity and religion is not because the state is supposed to be officially blind to such distinctions; at its origin, the law was meant to shield minorities from discrimination.

Faced with a growing Muslim minority and what Prime Minister Manuel Valls recently called a “territorial, social, ethnic apartheid,” France’s adherence to its own values is being challenged. Many French believe Islam and republicanism are incompatible. But what’s really incompatible are republicanism and anti-terror laws that criminalize unrepublican opinions.

Canada is facing largely the same challenge as France. Let’s hope we strike a better balance.

The perils of counterterror overreach – The Globe and Mail.