OTTAWA – Elizabeth May, Green Party Leader and Member of Parliament for Saanich – Gulf Islands, along with Deputy Leader Bruce Hyer, Member of Parliament for Thunder Bay – Superior North, announced their amendments to Bill C-51 at a press conference this morning. Ms. May and Mr. Hyer, who have been vocal critics, will table 60 amendments during clause-by- clause consideration of the bill.
“While there is no way to fix this deeply flawed bill, our duty as elected legislators compels us to protect Canadians from its most egregious faults,” said Ms. May. “Our amendments seek to protect Canadian’s Charter rights and make this country safer by eliminating the reckless and dangerous Conservative policies in C-51.”
The Green Party proposed amendments to each of the 5 parts of the omnibus terror bill. Part 1 would create an information sharing act that would allow almost every government department to share private information about citizens with virtually no restrictions.
“I was shocked that the Privacy Commissioner of Canada was not invited to testify at Committee,” said Ms. May. “There’s a reason: he is deeply concerned that this bill will trample on Canadian’s privacy rights. Our amendments are guided by those concerns.”
Part 2 would expand the no-fly list in Canada. It has been widely criticized as having been drafted without appropriate consultation with the airline industry.
“I greatly question the need to expand Canada’s no-fly list,” said Mr. Hyer. “C-51 creates a dangerous scenario with a complete lack of due process and the ability for Canadian officials to share the information on the list with virtually no caveats.
“Remember, this list catches people deemed too dangerous to fly but too harmless to arrest. The money spent on these pre-screening systems would be better spent on investigative or emergency response measures.”
Parts 3 and 4 would introduce broad new criminal code offences for ‘promoting terrorism’ and radically transform CSIS, providing new police powers to the agency which was designed to only collect domestic intelligence.
“C-51 will chill free speech,” said Ms. May. “It would make those involved in de-radicalizing efforts fearful of prosecution which would serve to further isolate – and thus make more dangerous – those individuals prone to committing ideologically driven acts of violence.
“By providing CSIS with disruption abilities, we take an agency that we know to overstep its existing powers, and equip it with a mandate to operate like a secret police. The weak changes the Harper administration announced last week are nowhere near sufficient to satisfy the bill’s many critics. The single best solution to C-51 remains scrapping it completely.”
While Ms. May was a regular attendee of committee hearings during its study of Bill C-51, Conservative MPs blocked her every attempt to ask a single question. Although any MP has a right to sit at committee, participation is at the discretion of the Chair. During these hearings, the Chair chose to put Ms. May’s requests to the floor for unanimous consent, which was summarily denied by her Conservative colleagues.
The process by which Green MPs submit amendments to committee is one created by PMO to deprive Green MPs from presenting amendments to the House of Commons at Report Stage. Ms. May used this right effectively in opposing Bill C-38 in spring 2012. Since the fall of 2013, due to identical motions passed by Conservatives in every committee, Green amendments are deemed to have been moved at committee. Ms. May and Mr. Hyer will be given time to present each amendment but are not allowed to vote.