Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Human Rights And The Politics Of Fear

When Alex Neve, longtime Secretary General of the Canadian branch of Amnesty International, speaks, people should listen. He and his organization have now weighed in on Bill C-51, the 'anti-terror' bill being promoted with such relish by Stephen Harper and his acolytes. It is a bill, Neve and many others contend, that will seriously erode human rights and freedoms in the name of national security. Its powers will far exceed anything necessary.

Neve's position is best summed up this way:
Human rights do not stand in the way of security that is universal, durable and inclusive. Human rights are in fact the very key.
And it is these human rights that are being most seriously compromised by the terms of the bill.
In C-51 we are faced with a set of brand new and significantly revised national security laws that could undermine human rights more insidiously than at any time since the October 1970 invocation of the War Measures Act.
Among Amnesty's many concerns:
- Bill C-51 authorizes Federal Court judges to approve, in secret hearings, CSIS threat-reduction activities that would violate the Charter of Rights

- [T]hese threat-reduction powers can be carried out anywhere in the world. If outside Canada, the bill instructs judges simply to disregard foreign laws when issuing warrants.

- The bill does not specify what CSIS agents are allowed to do in the name of reducing security threats (notably the definition of threats goes far beyond terrorism to include protests and blockades that are not considered lawful).

- We do know that CSIS agents can’t kill, commit bodily harm, pervert justice or violate sexual integrity. That is reassuring, one supposes. But what of all the human rights violations that aren’t on that no-go list?
When added to all the other warnings sounded about this insidious legislation, it is clear that there is much to be concerned about here. Yet, as with all such dissenting views, expect Stephen Harper to treat Neve's concerns with disdainful dismissal.

For the sake of our basic rights and freedoms, it is an attitude the rest of us can ill afford to embrace.

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