March 30, 2015
Mr. Leif-Erik Aune, Clerk
Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (SECU)
Dear Mr. Aune,
I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Criminal Justice Association (CCJA). The CCJA is one of the longest serving non-governmental organizations of professionals and citizens interested in criminal justice in Canada, having begun its work in 1919 and having testified before Parliamentary Committees on numerous occasions. Our association represents 700 members from all across Canada and publishes the Canadian Journal of Criminology and Criminal Justice, the Justice Report and other publications.
We are writing to add our voice to the list of individuals and organizations who are expressing concerns about Bill C-51, the Anti-terrorism Act, 2015. We share the legitimate concern of the Government of Canada, and Canadians in general, about the safety and security of our homes, communities and institutions. We acknowledge the Government’s stated purpose of protecting that safety and security. At the same time, we are aware that a great many people, including former Prime Ministers, security experts, academics, lawyers, human rights experts, and others, have raised significant concerns about Bill C-51.
While the CCJA claims no special expertise in the areas of national security and security intelligence, we do have longstanding expertise in the fields of criminal and correctional law and human rights. In view of the large number of Canadians expressing concern about Bill C-51, we respectfully request that the Standing Committee, Parliament and the Government take the time necessary to ensure that the proposed legislation strikes the right balance between safety and security, on the one hand, and freedom, privacy, and human rights on the other hand.
In this regard, we commend to the Standing Committee’s and the Government’s attention, the excellent work being done in this area by Professors Kent Roach and Craig Forcese. We are aware that they have already appeared before the Standing Committee to give evidence on Bill C-51 and have presented a brief on the proposed legislation. Nevertheless, we think the Committee could benefit in its work on the Bill from an in-depth study of the amendments to C-51 that Professors Roach and Forcese have recommended on their website:
Further, in view of the undeniable potential for constitutional issues to be raised by the proposed legislation should it be passed by Parliament, we urge the Governor in Council to employ the option available to it under section 53 of the Supreme Court Act to refer the matter to the Court for an advisory opinion on the provisions of the Bill and on how best to protect national safety and security, while still respecting the basic core values of Canadian society. We urge Parliament and the Executive branch to work with our Courts in developing a response to this problem that is respectful of Canadian constitutional norms and values.
Finally, we suggest that the Standing Committee take advantage of this opportunity to hold public hearings across the country to hear the views of a wide-range of experts and lay-people on the Bill. Informed public debate on a matter this important is essential to our democracy.
As citizens in a democratic society that values freedom, privacy, human rights and fairness in equal measure to our desire for safety and security, we appreciate the work the Standing Committee and the Government have undertaken in this difficult area. We simply ask that you take the time needed to ensure that Bill C-51 achieves the right balance for Canada between the competing interests at stake.