New Bill Threatens Privacy, Liberty and Citizenship

Bill C-44 was tabled by Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney. The Bill named, An Act to amend the Canadian Security Intelligence Service Act and other Acts will have large repercussions on privacy and Canadian citizenship. On January 28th it was reported back to the House without amendment and it received concurrence at the Report Stage in the House of Commons. A motion was also passed on that day in order to allocate no more than one further sitting day for debate of C-44 at both the report stage and third reading.

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After Paris, UK’s “Snooper’s Charter” Back on the Table

Shortly after the attacks in Paris, Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, is one of many around the world calling for increased police powers to monitor the activities of those who may pose a threat to domestic security. He told reporters that he is “not particularly bothered with this civil liberties stuff”.

Johnson is mirroring the sentiments of the Conservative government, who have plans to revive the controversial Communications Data Bill. The Bill is known as the “Snooper’s Charter” as it would allow the government to monitor and store internet and mobile communications from all UK citizens for a full year.

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has come out against the Bill, worrying that it would confer too many powers. While advocating for a change in the existing laws, he says there are other ways to “identify the needle without inferring guilt on the whole of the haystack”.

Jury Selected for Couple Charged with Plotting to Blow Up British Columbia Legislature

John Stuart Nuttall and Amanda Korody were arrested in July 2013 for allegedly planting pressure-cooker explosive devices on the premises of the provincial legislature in Victoria, B.C. on Canada Day. The pair was charged with knowingly facilitating a terrorist activity, making or possessing an explosive device, conspiracy to place an explosive device with the intent to cause death or injury, and conspiracy to murder persons unknown. On Tuesday, they both plead not guilty.

Shortly after the pleas were entered, jury selection for the highly publicized trial began. More than 300 potential jurors were present for the scheduled first day of jury selection at the B.C. Supreme Court in Vancouver. Jury selection took place in courtroom 20, an enhanced-security courtroom built for the Air India trial and often used for high-profile B.C. cases. By the end of the day, all 14 jurors (7 women and 7 men) had been selected.

In a surprising move, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Catherine Bruce issued a publication ban on many details of the proceedings, including much of the jury selection process.

The trial is scheduled to begin February 2 and is anticipated to continue for 18 weeks.

Read more here.


UK’s New Anti-Terrorism Bills Criticized by Civil Rights Activists

The UK government has published the Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill ahead of its first reading in the House of Commons, scheduled for today. It includes several measures that have civil rights activists concerned.

Among them is the ability to temporarily exclude British citizens from returning home if they have been suspected of engaging in terrorists activities outside of the UK. This could leave some UK nationals stateless while overseas.

Another concern regards forcing internet providers to retain more identifying data to provide to the government for anti-terrorism purposes.

Other issues involve the ability to cancel passports at the border for up to 30 days, a ban on insuring ransoms, requiring more data from airlines, mandating anti-radicalization measures from educational institutions, and greater control on the domestic movements of suspected terrorists.

David Anderson, QC, the independent review of terrorism legislation (and appointed by the government), voiced his concern over the bill.

“The concern I have about this power and the central concern about it is: where are the courts in all of this? …One could look at it in terms of young, possibly vulnerable people caught up with the wrong crowd in Syria – didn’t really know exactly what they were doing… Do you want to throw the book at them straight away in terms of arrest and charge? Or is there something to be said, even though you do suspect them of having fought, of keeping them under a very light regime where they might have to report daily to a police station? They might have to notify [of] their residence; they might have to go along to meetings with probation or with some similar which perhaps might be for some people be a more sensible way of dealing with them than putting them straight into the criminal justice process.”

For more details of the bill and its specific concerns, see here.

Le SCRS rabroué

Le Service canadien de renseignement sur la sécurité (SCRS), à qui le gouvernement fédéral souhaite octroyer plus de pouvoirs en matière de surveillance, aurait délibérément trompé la Cour afin d’obtenir un mandat visant à traquer deux Canadiens à l’étranger.

Le banc de trois juges de la Cour d’appel fédéral a unanimement confirmé le jugement de première instance, selon lequel ” les représentants du SCRS, après avoir consulté leurs conseillers juridiques, ont décidé d’omettre [stratégiquement]” les informations concernant leur volonté de recourir à l’assistance d’agences de renseignement étrangères afin d’intercepter les communications des individus visés par le mandat. Read the rest of this entry »

Justin Bourque sentencing phase underway this week in Moncton

Earlier this week, a two day sentencing hearing commenced in Moncton for Justin Bourque, the 24-year old who pleaded guilty to 3 counts of first-degree murder in connection with the deaths of 3 police officers in Moncton earlier this year.

CBC has reported that as a result of a change of Criminal Code sentencing laws in 2011, the ineligibility period of parole for Bourque for these convictions may be as high as 75 years. Crown prosecutor Cameron Gunn is reported to be seeking the maximum parole ineligibility period, whereas defence attorney David Lutz has argued for a parole ineligibility period of 50 years. In argument, Lutz stated that anything besides 50 years would be academic as Bourque would be 99 before being eligible for parole under the maximum ineligibility period. More can be read on these proceedings here.

Today in an interview with the CBC, St. Thomas University criminology professor Karla O’Regan weighed in on the sentencing hearing and called for a more methodological and uniform approach to criminal justice sentencing rather than basing it on potent emotions and reactions of fear. Her entire interview can be seen here.

Suicide, Violence and Over-Crowding Up in UK Prisons

The UK prison system is under fire this month after a comprehensive report was released.

The report details a 69% rise in self-inflicted deaths in prison in just one year, totaling 88. One article cites 125 suicides in 20 months, averaging on 6 suicides a month. The report also details a 14% rise in prisoner-on-prisoner assault, including a 38% rise in serious assault among adult male prisoners. Additionally, it lists a rising problem with drugs.

The report blames overcrowding as the root cause of the problem. The prison system is currently using 99% of “the usable operational capacity”. One group also attributes the problems to massive budget cuts. While the numbers are uncertain, between 27 and 41% of prison jobs have been cut since the election of the Cameron government. Meanwhile, employees who have spoken publicly about the safety implications these job cuts have created are allegedly being reprimanded and may loose their jobs.

For more, see here.

B.C. Legislature Contemplating Heightened Security Measures After Ottawa Shooting

In light of Wednesday’s tragic events in Ottawa, questions are being raised about security measures at the B.C. Legislature. CTV Vancouver reports that the premises continue to remain closed to the public for a second day, as staff reassess safety protocols and determine whether to increase security. CTV’s Lisa Rossington said “some people at the B.C. legislature are suggesting the guards should carry firearms and that all public entrances should have metal detectors.”

Speaking to MLAs on Wednesday, B.C. Premier Christy Clark said there would be a careful review of security at the B.C. Legislature. According to CBC, Clark also told reporters that “it was important to find a balance between necessary concerns over security and being very careful not to shut the public out,” adding that ensuring public access to the Legislature and other institutions was a priority. The debate was intensified by reports that Clark and select members of the B.C. Legislature received information about security concerns in Ottawa in the days prior to the shooting.

Security in Metro Vancouver has also been increased for the time being, with a more noticeable police presence at select public buildings and near transit. The CBC reports that heightened security is to be expected at upcoming Remembrance Day ceremonies as well. The scope of these heightened measures is likely to be affected by information regarding the nature and motive of the Ottawa shooting, to be released in the days to come.

Read more here.









Death of Lucia Verga Jimenez Reveals Shortcomings in YVR Immigration Detention Facility

Lucia Vega Jimenez was found hanging from a shower stall inside the YVR underground immigration detention centre operated by a private security firm on December 20, 2013.  A coroner’s inquest was launched in an effort to prevent similar deaths from occurring. Video showing Jimenez entering bathroom can be found here.

Jimenez was a Mexican national, and was allegedly stopped by transit police, who suspected she was in Canada illegally, and was subsequently delivered to the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA). Jimenez was held in a facility staffed by Genesis Security, which provides private security contract positions to the three immigration-holding centers run by the CBSA. Genesis Security won the Top Choice Award for Top Security Guard Services in Vancouver of 2014. Current and former Genesis Security guards testified at the inquest that they often had to pay for their own training, and only received a pamphlet in lieu of suicide prevention training.

The inquest also heard that Genesis frequently understaffed security guards at the CBSA site, and that the records of mandatory checks on detainees were falsified. On the day of Jimenez’s death, the female guard required for checks on the female detainees was offsite, and ex-Genesis guard Jivan Sandhu failed to check on Jimenez for over 40 minutes after she entered the showers. Sandhu agreed with the statement by BCCLA lawyer Jason Gratl that Genesis had “too many jobs and not enough bodies”

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Conservatives to Expand CSIS Powers

Public Safety Minister Stephen Blaney will table a bill when Parliament returns next week to expand the Canadian Security Intelligence Service’s powers. The legislation is a response to the growing number of Canadian citizens traveling abroad to fight for extremist groups like ISIS, as well as a Supreme Court decision in May that declined to grant a class privilege to CSIS informants.

The bill is expected to contain three key provisions:

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