Problem of Secrecy and Secret Activities of Intelligence Agencies

March 14, 2015. Demonstration on Parliament Hill against Bill C-51.

The TML Monthly article of February 7, "Governance of Police Powers Does Not Protect Rights or Democratic Values," points out: "What is referred to as rule of law is actually subordinate to the police powers which routinely act behind closed doors in the name of national interest and national security."

The issue of secrecy and the activities of a secret political police under the guise of protecting national security is an important element of disinformation. The aim is to allow the Canadian state to engage in criminal activity to achieve an undisclosed objective. Recourse to police powers, in the name of protecting national security and to disinform the polity so that it cannot intervene in a manner which favours its interests, is not acceptable. The state says Canadians should sacrifice and give up their rights and struggles in the name of protecting national security, which it equates with protecting society as a whole. To dispute such an assertion is not only itself taboo but is considered to be and is treated as a threat to national security.

In 2015, the Harper government's second anti-terrorism law, Bill C-51, which the Liberal Party voted in favour of along with the Conservatives, amended several other laws including the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) Act. The amended Act gives the secret service the power to engage in disruption activities just about anywhere. This law says that CSIS can "take measures, within or outside Canada, to reduce the threat" to the security of Canada. While CSIS has illegally engaged in rights violations and disruption activities since its inception, Bill C-51 enshrined this illegality in law.

Justin Trudeau's Liberal Party voted in favour of Bill C-51 but, in the face of massive popular opposition to this law, on the eve of the federal election it promised to annul "the problematic elements of Bill C-51" and to present "new legislation that better balances our collective security with our rights and freedoms." This masquerade of defending rights and freedoms and Canadian values, and of prohibiting the transgression of the limited rights enshrined in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, became law with Bill C-59, the National Security Act, 2017, which received Royal Assent on June 21, 2019.

In Bill C-59, it is said that the police powers can "take measures ... that would limit a right or freedom guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms" only if "a judge ... issues a warrant authorizing the taking of those measures." The measures "that would limit a right or freedom" are, amongst others: "(a) causing, intentionally or by criminal negligence, death or bodily harm to an individual; (b) wilfully attempting in any manner to obstruct, pervert or defeat the course of justice; (c) violating the sexual integrity of an individual; [and] (d) subjecting an individual to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, within the meaning of the Convention Against Torture."

Already, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms stipulates that the limited rights set out therein must be exercised within "reasonable limits" and may be restricted by a rule of law "as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society."

Bill C-59 enacted the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency Act which entered into force by decree in July 2019. It created a new federal entity, the National Security and Intelligence Review Agency (NSIRA).

The amendments to the CSIS Act also deal with surveillance and disruption activities carried out in violation of other countries' sovereignty. This law allows CSIS to conduct disruptive activities abroad without the consent of the targeted country. Also in the name of protecting national security, CSIS can be called upon to "assist the Minister of National Defence or the Minister of Foreign Affairs."

These disruptive activities which violate the sovereignty of other countries are an element of Canada's conduct in international affairs. They include providing assistance to and cooperating with the government of a foreign state or one of its institutions for the purpose of bringing about regime change in a targeted country. An example of this is Venezuela, where Canadian diplomats intervene and carry out all kinds of activities for regime change. Canada's leadership and involvement in the Lima Group as well as the Organization of American States is another example. Passing laws to make it "lawful" to violate the fundamental principles on which the United Nations is founded and which guide international conduct is then used to back up Canada's demand that all countries must be rules-based according to the demands of the U.S. imperialists.

The integration of Canada into the security apparatus of the United States and the Five Eyes intelligence agencies is made lawful through the CSIS Act, which provides that Canada "enter into an arrangement or otherwise cooperate with the government of a foreign state or an institution thereof or an international organization of states or an institution thereof."

Secrecy and protection of sources are a sine qua non -- an essential condition of legislation and security agencies dealing with matters said to concern "national security." Consider security certificates and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act. Under that law, the fact of knowing the charges which are brought against a person, of having at one's disposal the evidence or the allegations which are brought against a person, all is at the discretion of the police powers and so-called security agencies. Reports submitted by these agencies, be it the Canada Border Services Agency, CSIS or others, can be written or rewritten in their favour with full impunity, with the tragic consequences of arbitrary detention, the separation of families, the detention of children, deportation and different forms of treatment and torture.

This method is used against refugees and migrants in a situation of irregularity in the name of protecting national security. Immigrants or refugees can be removed from the country without being given the reasons why. By virtue of Section 86 of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, the Minister of Immigration can use exactly the same procedures but which are expedited, to obtain what are called "light security certificates." It is not the same heavy-handed procedure compared to the security certificates used a few years ago that is being used today. The security certificate procedure has been abandoned because the people targeted were defending themselves too vigorously. This "light security certificate" procedure has been used hundreds of times over the past few years mostly unbeknownst to Canadians.

This law also confers immunity to security service agents. This includes the right to commit offences, make false statements, violate their "duty of candour" to the courts, and the like.

All these measures have been adopted systematically over the years, again mostly unbeknownst to Canadians. The police powers which comprise the state protect themselves through laws passed by Parliament while engaging in disruptive activities to prohibit and stifle all popular resistance against rights violations. Since 2001-02 following the adoption of the anti-terrorism law, no matter what cartel party formed the government, the state has continuously renewed the measures which it claims are "balanced exceptional measures," directly aimed against the struggles of the workers, Indigenous peoples, refugees, immigrants, migrants, the Quebec people and communities of all kinds.

These "anti-terrorist" laws, presented as exceptional laws, have created states of exception that have become permanent. This has created a dangerous situation at the present time. Clearly this is unacceptable restructuring of the state to permit the erstwhile covert activities of a political police to act openly with the protection of sources and impunity on grounds of national security and the necessity to integrate Canada even further into the security apparatus of the U.S. war machine. 

Attempts to disinform the polity in order to violate the rights of the people and their collectives and carry out attacks against the struggles of the people with impunity is a very poor way to give legitimacy to claims of being progressive, humanitarian and law-abiding. It only serves to create giants with feet of clay.

This article was published in

Volume 51 Number 6 - February 28, 2021

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