Last month, legislation passed a second reading on the controversial Canadian Anti-Terror mass surveillance Bill C-51, showing just how determined the Canadian government is to undermine the privacy of the whole population. This comes as a little surprise to many, with several revelations last year of Canadians being spied on Facebook, or while connected to public Wi-Fi at the airport, along with strategically positioning staff to ease the process of implementing such powerful and impacting laws. The big concern is how little oversight the Canadian system has currently has on these programs, and how little the officials making the decisions know themselves.
During a teleconference hosted by Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, the Ryerson School of Journalism and CBC, Edward Snowden called Canadian oversight on mass surveillance by government intelligence agencies one of the weakest out of all the Western world.
He called Bill C-51 an emulation of the American Patriot Act, advising that the people in power debating and pushing this case, truly lack the knowledge and facts regarding what surveillance agencies are really collecting, or doing behind closed doors.
If the bill passes, it would grant CSIS even more power, something dangerous without the proper infrastructure in place to oversee operations, and ensure public safety. Police would in turn have the power to start making ‘preventive arrests’ and detain someone without any warrant for arrest.
Over 100 Canadian academics have written to the Prime Minister to stop the bill in its tracks, pointing out the dangers and highlighting the lack of transparency, and large flaws in the proposed system. Even the New York Times called the move a ‘gamble’, and a steep nose dive for Canadian privacy rights.
Snowden reminded Canadians not to simply give up and throw away their rights, liberties and traditional freedoms due to being afraid of rare instances of criminal activity. These programs have so far been very costly, and shown little benefit in avoiding terrorist attacks.
A report from a U.S. independent federal privacy and civil liberties watchdog from last year, came to a conclusion that the NSA’s mass surveillance programs had very minimal impacts in detecting terrorist plots. The board put in a personal recommendation that the U.S. government end the spying programs back in 2014.
This year, the European human rights committee released a 32 page report, warning of the potential for abuse of power, also stating the lack of efficiency the programs had in stopping criminal attacks.
So far, it seems that this play may actually hurt the government parties in favor of it, as the public grows more informed.
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