Bill C-51 Remains Problematic

david-harris-torontoBill C-51, the most dramatic Canadian security reforms since 2001, has passed through Parliament. From there, it will be considered by the House of Commons and then the Senate. Early reports indicate the government has every intention to push Bill C-51 through the Senate as quickly as possible. Debate in the House at both the second and third reading was limited. The government did not invite the country’s Privacy Commissioner to testify. All this despite widespread pushback across the nation. Of all the proposed changes, only a small handful of amendments have been folded into it.

All forms of advocacy, protest, dissent, and artistic expression will be outside the purview of the proposed information sharing framework. This is a welcome development, given that even Amnesty International has expressed public concern that the previous wording of the bill would certainly infringe on rights to freedom of expression, association, and assembly.

The same adaptation was not included in the new powers allotted to the CSIS to take action against perceived national security threats. Therefore, any protest or dissent (lawful or not) will remain protected when it comes to information sharing and criminal prosecutions. However, only lawful protest is safe from the CSIS disrupting security threats. So, for example, “artistic expression” is explicitly protected from information sharing but not with respect to threat reduction by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service.  This is certainly inconsistent, given that even “artistic expression” falls short of the freedom of expression outlined by both international human rights law and the Canadian Charter of Rights.

Information sharing, threat reduction, and criminal law must provide the same protections for dissent, protest, and advocacy – none of these can justly be included in the definition of threats to the security of Canada or of terrorist activity. These concerns do not even begin to address other troubling sections of the bill, which propose things like increased powers of preventative detention and permitting arrests without charge. The fundamentally problematic aspects of Bill C-51 remain and it still threatens to undermine, if not directly violate, Canada’s commitment to human rights. It is our duty as citizen to make our voices heard and denounce this attack on human rights.

Supreme Court Gives Workers Right to Join Union

Screen Shot 2015-01-29 at 4.44.21 PMThe Supreme Court of Canada made a major move in the direction of employee rights. On the sixteenth of January, the Supreme court of Canada affirmed the constitutional rights right of all workers in Canada to join a union of their own choosing as well as engage in meaningful collective bargaining. The decision was brought to pass due to a challenge brought by the Mounted Police Associations of Ontario and B.C. against the Public Service Labour Relations Act and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act which denied members the right to join a union.

In a six to one decision, the Supreme Court expressed that the right to freedom of association of association should also include the right to collective bargaining. The judge also wrote:  

“We conclude that the s. 2(d) guarantee of freedom of association protects a meaningful process of collective bargaining that provides employees with a degree of choice and independence sufficient to enable them to determine and pursue their collective interests.”

This moment definitely comes off historic the working class as well as the labor movement of Canada. James Clancy, National President of the 340,000-member National Union of Public and General Employees, stated:

“Not only has the Supreme Court affirmed the fundamental labour rights of working people, it has reinforced the positive roles that unions and collective bargaining play in Canadian society. The Court explicitly states that collective bargaining is a fundamental aspect of Canadian society in that it enhances the human dignity, liberty, and autonomy of workers.”

“The decision also recognizes the importance of unions in providing the only democratic counterweight to the growing power of employers in Canada, especially of governments and large corporations,” Clancy added.

The Supreme Court Justices gave working people of Canada the affirmation they needed that collective bargaining is indeed important for the working people to thrive. They noted that this now

“them the opportunity to influence the establishment of workplace rules and thereby gain some control over a major aspect of their lives, namely their work. Put simply, its purpose is to preserve collective employee autonomy against the superior power of management and to maintain equilibrium between the parties.”

The Canadian government now has 12 months to come up with a new procedure that honors the freedom of association and guarantees RCMP officers’ rights to collective bargaining.