Spy rules demand parliamentary oversight

By Gerald V. Paul

Eyes met a young, beautiful and brilliant lady with CSIS at the Black History Society’s launch of Black History Month and, guess what, Eyesers? She is of Trinidad and Tobago heritage. Cool / Uncool? Hey, spy on me … please. Ent?

On a serious note, last Sunday was the Nelson Mandela stamp unveiling at the federal Black History Month celebration. So let’s listen to Mandela: “The history of the world, also in the last two centuries, had unfortunately been a story of too many wars with all the attendant cruelty of humankind. The twenty-first century, which so many hoped would at last be the century of the triumph of world peace and global caring, has not started too promising.”

Mandela was speaking about former British prime minister Tony Blair and former U.S. president George Bush and the invasion of Iraq in London, England, on July 10, 2003.

According to John C. Brooks, “The best way to take control over a people and control them utterly is to take a little of their freedom at a time, to erode rights by a thousand tiny and almost imperceptible reductions. In this way the people will not see those rights and freedoms being taken until past the point at which these changes cannot be reversed.”

So, we need to balance security with freedom and democracy in light of Ottawa’s Anti-Terrorism Act 2015 which gives more power to police and spy agencies. Is there a price to pay? How about losing civil rights and freedoms? And why no mechanism for Parliament to effectively oversee the work of security services?

Why not create a special committee of MPs and senators, representing all major parties? Members of this panel, sworn to secrecy, would also oversee operation of Canada’s spy agencies, as well as the military and police in security matters rather than those who are currently hand-picked.

Already, Canada’s Communications Security Establishment is gleaning up to 15 million free file uploads daily, perceived as a threat democracy. Lord, have mercy.

Methinks former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden was right when he urged Canadians, as he addressed students at Upper Canada College via Google recently, to be cautious in accepting new anti-terror laws.

You see, Eyesers, legislation introduced last week by the federal government represents the largest overhaul of Canada’s security laws in more than a decade. From the economy, stupid, to security, STUPID?

In Question Period, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the Security Intelligence Review Committee (SIRC) is sufficient oversight for the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

But, said Liberal MP Ralph Goodale, “SIRC’s annual report in 2014 (signed by Reformer Deb Gray) said SIRC doesn’t do ‘oversight’ at all – it’s not their mandate.”

Goodale said the Harper government leaves SIRC with lengthy vacancies and appoints people like Arthur Porter (now in jail in Panama) to be SIRC chair – go figure,

Under the new rules, as long as a judge approves, CSIS agents will be able to cancel someone’s travel reservations (travel while Black / Muslim?) or disrupt a banking transaction or electronic communications. The new power gives the agency a measure of authority currently reserved for police forces.

Lord, have mercy. Talk about racial profiling in CSIS intelligence gathering.

It’s time for a just society, time for Parliamentary oversight. Now!

Gerald V. Paul
Gerald V. Paul