OTTAWA – POLITICS – The Green Party has pushed hard against Bill C-51. In Parliament, Bruce Hyer, Deputy Leader of the Green Party of Canada and Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay – Superior North, presented 15 amendments concerning the highly criticized and controversial Bill C-51 at the National Security and Public Safety Committee today.
Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada and Member of Parliament for Saanich – Gulf Islands, also presented amendments to the bill dealing with a broad range of issues related to constitutionality and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Hyer’s amendments focused on airplane security, especially the use and potential misuse of the “no-fly” list in the Secure Air Travel section of Bill C-51.
In a statement, the Green Party says, “Not only is this bill being rushed through Parliament by the Conservatives, but it was also both hastily and badly drafted. MP Hyer’s proposed amendments are intended to make a bad bill somewhat better. The concern by Hyer is that citizens of Northwestern Ontario may have their travel plans unexpectedly blocked even if they need to quickly fly to deal with a family death or emergency, if they end up on a “no-fly” list. There are other problems with C-51”.
As currently drafted C-51 will do the following things:
- C-51 puts the responsibility on the airlines to oversee security areas where they have no control
Hyer’s amendment will change the power of the Minister from instructing the airlines to do “anything” to prohibit a person from boarding a flight to a more reasonable and defined list of actions that airlines can be instructed to take.
- C-51 allows for all passengers on an airplane to have their data, documents, cellphones, and computers seized, despite relevance, on the suspicion that one suspected and identified terrorist might be on board.
Hyer’s amendments will allow the Minister to seize only those documents, computers, and cell phones that are deemed related to the inspection of a suspected persons not just any document, cell phone, computer on the plane.
- C-51 allows the Minister to share personal information of “suspected” persons having nothing to do with airplane security. There is no requirement to give the Privacy Commissioner a copy of written agreements entered into with foreign countries about the exchange of information.
C-51 sets the bar for the threshold for sharing the private information of Canadians far too low. MP Hyer’s amendment will allow the Minister to share only information related to transportation security. It will also require the Minister give the Privacy Commissioner a copy of written agreements entered into with foreign countries about the exchange of information.
- C-51 requires that appeals to be removed from the “no-fly” list be made within 60 days of appearance on the list.
Hyer’s amendment will eliminate the 60 day deadline for appeals, as people may not even know they are on the list. For example if a person is listed in error, and a close family member passes away, they may find to their surprise that they are unable to fly and the “no-fly” list won’t be reviewed by the Minister for up to 90 days. For this reason MP Hyer has also introduced an amendment that will allow for a 15 day expedited appeals process in exceptional circumstances.
- C-51 only allocates that a Judge “may” remove someone’s name from the “no-fly” list if the original reasons for their appearance on the list were found to be unreasonable.
Hyer’s amendment will change the wording from “may” to “must” requiring that a person’s name be removed from the “no-fly” list if the original reasons for their appearance on the list are deemed unreasonable.
- C-51 allows for judges to receive into evidence that would otherwise be inadmissible in a court of law.
MP Hyer’s amendment deletes the clause that allows for evidence that would be inadmissible in a court of law.
- C-51 allows for judges to receive evidence that cannot be shown to the accused for national security reasons.
Hyer’s amendment requires that in a case where evidence cannot be shown to the accused because of national security a special advocate is appointed to review evidence and represent the concerned interests of the accused. This amendment gets rid of any possibilities of secret evidence.
- C-51 does not require the posting of exact criteria for appearance on or removal from the “no-fly” list.
Hyer’s amendment requires the posting of the exact criteria for appearance on, and removal from, the “no-fly” list so that it is not vague, arbitrary and secretive, but instead is enforceable and accountable.
The Green Party states, “The Conservative government has virtually never voted in favour of any amendments by any opposition members in the House or in committee despite the fact that they received only 39 per cent of the votes. Under our flawed election system they have a false majority where receiving a minority of the national vote gave them 100 per cent of the power.
“Historically committee work was far less partisan, and there was collaboration and compromise. Many amendments were made to improve hasty drafted and flawed bills”.
All of the proposed amendments by Mr. Hyer and Ms. May (and all those by the NDP and Lib) were rejected summarily.