This became apparent on February 23, when Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government — backing a sweeping anti-terrorism bill to expand state surveillance powers and criminalize speech deemed to potentially “advocate” terrorism — closed down debate on the same bill after only three days of discussion.
Bill C-51 — drafted in response to two recent lone-wolf attacks, including one that ended in a shootout in the Ottawa House of Commons — broadens the scope of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), including allowing it to intercept private communications with closed-door judicial authorization.
Such a strategy is already ongoing, albeit under a different agency and on more-than-dubious legal footing. Documents leaked by Edward Snowden on January 28 show that Canada’s Communications Security Establishment (CSE) has already been monitoring the online downloads of millions of internet users. This followed news in April 2014 that the authorities were effectively copying themselves into Canadians’ emails, and monitoring thousands of texts and phone calls without a warrant.
Apparently emulating the United States by ramping up state powers and surveillance in the name of security is not enough. Canadian officials routinely hand over CSE data to their counterparts south of the border, and they have already agreed to share citizens’ biographic data with the US Border Patrol. Ontario police have even gone one step further and given confidential medical information to US officials, leading to Canadians being denied entry simply for having suffered a previous episode of mental illness.
Such tag-team abuses have a long history. In 2003, US officials intercepted and deported Canadian citizen Maher Arar to Syria from JFK Airport in New York, where he was awaiting a connection flight back from a family vacation in Tunisia. Canadian intelligence saw him held and tortured for a year, only to be found completely innocent.
If Canada’s security agencies are already overstepping their bounds, the extension of CSIS powers to include the “disruption” of terrorist activity, C-51’s extremely broad definition of terrorism, and preventative imprisonment when a subject “may” engage in terrorism, is nothing short of frightening.
The complaints have come piling in, including from four former prime ministers. The latest plea to scrap C-51 comes from 100 law professors nationwide, with their 4,000-word text covering “some, and only some” of the serious flaws in the bill. The letter notes that the bill opens the door for the stifling of protests and other forms of legitimate dissent.
Beyond this, C-51 transforms the CSIS from an information-gathering body into an aggressive agency, likely leading to to fresh turf wars with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP). The CSIS may also undertake overseas operations, further stirring up anti-Western sentiment that will likely only blow up in Canada’s face.
This is the grimmest irony of all: C-51 will violate Canadians’ rights only to damage counter-terror initiatives. By criminalizing incitement to terrorism, the frank discussions of deradicalization programs will be stifled, and the online forums and chat rooms that provide key warning signals will dry up, leaving security services in the dark.
Canada, once noted for abstaining from dubious armed conflicts abroad, and adhering to the rule of law at home, is fast becoming a fully-fledged member of an international club that sanctions torture, mass surveillance, and a creeping police state.
Perhaps the majority of Canadians support this process, and welcome the government’s latest bid to monitor their private lives as never before. But if they do, why is Harper so afraid of giving them a chance to debate it?
Español In January, Ecuadorian health officials declared a “state of emergency” in Guayaquil's Teodoro Maldonado Carbo Hospital (HTMC), but fresh discoveries have kept the flagship state-run institution in Ecuador's largest city in the eye of the storm. Inspectors accompanying President Rafael Correa on his second visit to HTMC on Tuesday, February 24, discovered over a dozen tunnels allegedly used to smuggle medicines out of the hospital for illicit sale. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ed3jpKS2Nt4&feature=youtu.be The system of passageways, filled with rusting pipes, cables, and puddles of fetid water, connects with multiple areas of the hospital. Signs of red paint indicate the entry and exit points of the network. Further beneath the tunnels themselves is an enormous cesspool collecting run-off wastewater. This massive source of infection was one of many severe irregularities found by the Ecuadorian Institute of Social Security (IESS) team that accompanied President Correa on his visit. President Correa also announced the discovery of 42 cellars used to store medicine in unsuitable conditions, much of which had expired. Jonás Gonseth, the hospital's newly appointed manager, claimed that many of the stores were "clearly linked" to the theft of medicines, putting the figure of expired products at US$7 million. “We've rescued up to $3.5 million in drugs that weren't expired, but couldn't be salvaged due to the poor conditions in which they were stored," Gonseth said, noting that the majority were expensive treatments, including for cancer patients. Correa's visit to the HTMC came 15 days after his first unannounced inspection to the hospital, in which he found irregularities in several areas of the institution, later describing it as "a real disaster." Following Correa's second visit, police arrested seven staff working in the pharmacy and cellars of HTMC for their alleged involvement in the medicine theft. Interior Minister José Serrano later confirmed the arrest via his Twitter account. https://twitter.com/ppsesa/status/571337947632537600 "We've apprehended 7 presumed criminals for the theft of cancer medicines in Teodoro Maldonado Guayaquil Hospital." A joint operation between Ecuador's Attorney General's Office and the IESS saw the hospital staff placed in custody late on Friday. Featuring on the charge sheet are computer fraud, embezzlement, and theft, with government losses from the drug theft totaling around $500,000. A "Genuine Mafia" During his weekly Citizen Link televised broadcast on Saturday, President Rafael Correa took aim at HTMC and its employees, claiming that failings had been long-standing due to endemic corruption. “People complained that there were no drugs for cancer treatment, but this medicine was being stolen. People said there were no retrovirals ... but these did not appear in the inventory and then were mysteriously lost," the president said, describing the smuggling networks as "genuine mafias." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t07YlmeWTsc&start=2040 "There was looting in the Teodoro Maldonado Carbo Hospital; people knew it, but nothing happened. We all become complicit in these cases," Correa said. Furthermore, the Ecuadorian premier demanded an explanation from the hospital authorities about delays in payments to staff, poor patient care, and the habitual untidiness of the institution. "It was not lack of resources, it was lack of management and organization ... indolence and corruption," Correa argued. "I don't know how we failed to notice these things." Ecuadorians Unsurprised However, many Ecuadorians appear not to have been shocked by the irregularities found at HTMC. Many social media users claimed that the corruption had been going on openly for years without punishment. https://twitter.com/davidroserow/status/570755971703808000 "What was happening for years in the Teodoro Maldonado Carbo hospital, was uncovered by a citizen inspection by the Council of Citizen Participation and Social Control. Kleptocracy." Others complained that former health officials, such as Industry Minister Ramiro González and Defense Minister President Fernando Cordero, are now working in senior government positions. The two previously served as presidents of the IESS Board of Directors without signaling the failings at HTMC. https://twitter.com/andrespaezid/status/572120005032198144 "Five employees of the IESS Hospital in Guayaquil detained. And Gonzalez and Cordero were happily rewarded with positions! Did they not know about the mess and theft?" https://twitter.com/romoced/status/571697223681105920 "Tremendous and systematic lack of management in the largest IESS hospital in the country. And former managers rewarded with ministries." Edited by Laurie Blair.