Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Omnibus Letter: 1 of 3

This is the first of a series of three letters to Canadians and the Canadian Government regarding the Omnibus Bill.

To the Canadian Government, Law Enforcement Agencies, and my countrymen:

I am writing this because I believe strongly in protections of our civil liberties and the rights granted within the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Canada is one of the few countries where the right to privacy is explicit in our charter, yet is from our government that we have seen its slow erosion.

Throughout the election I did my best to draw attention to the privacy issues present in the Omnibus Crime Bill.  Since the election I have spoken about this issue publicly at a Fair Vote meeting in Waterloo and at a recent talk I gave at Ignite.   Today, Open Media sent a letter highlighting the concerns held by many Canadians, including academics and public interest organizations, regarding the bill.

In our search for assurance against forces that may wish us harm, both domestic and foreign, we must never lose sight of that which makes this country great.  Our human rights pose benefits to both society and the individual. These rights cannot be divided from a free and just society, they exist as core virtues, the value of which we all know, though we may not all be able to articulate. Their existence as rights signifies that they require no further articulation, no further justification. Yet, they are under threat of erosion, and it is imperative that we act. They provide each individual the necessary protections against other individuals, corporations, and the state. Without these provisions others are diminished. The significance of economic or military threats cannot be diminished, not in this time or another; their impact can be both far-reaching and devastating.  Yet there is another threat of arguably greater importance, one that we dare not diminish lest we turn a blind eye to history.  That threat is posed in the fear of the aggressor, the one that leads us to turn on each other and to sacrifice our liberties and our rights.

Despite calls by Michael Geist, The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Open Media, as well as numerous other groups and individuals for evidence, no proper justification has been delivered.  It is imperative that infringements such as these demonstrate explicit justification, based on evidence, and that strict controls apply. The reduction of justification within the system must be counterbalanced with additional transparency. Accountability is crucial, yet these bills seem unconcerned with it at the time of this writing.

I believe that all citizens, Law Enforcement Agencies, and politicians wish to make Canada the best country it can be. I share the concern for the welfare of Canadians, and accept that in some rare cases concessions must be made.  However, in the majority of cases privacy can be ensured with accountability, transparency of process, court oversight, and other counter-balances.  Where it cannot, a sound evidence-based justification, backed by a transparent evaluation of different possible tactics, is required. The lack of these and, in fact, reduction of them, is of grave concern to many Canadians.

I call on my colleagues to take this very seriously and take the time required to closely examine the requirements of the situation. When the rights of Canadians are at stake, we require diligence, not deference, from our politicians.  If you believe that privacy and the infringements on human rights deserve the utmost attention, then I invite you to join thousands of Canadians. 

I invite you to send a message.

Steven Bradley Scott

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