Hon. Lillian Eva Dyck:
Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to Bill C-51, the anti-terrorism act, 2015, at second reading.
First, I would like to look at clause 3 of the bill that outlines the purpose of bill, and I will read that into the record:
The purpose of this Act is to encourage and facilitate the sharing of information among Government of Canada institutions in order to protect Canada against activities that undermine the security of Canada.
To protect Canada from "activities."
Now, if we go to clause 2 of the bill, it says:
The following definitions apply in this Act:
"activity that undermines the security of Canada" means any activity, including any of the following activities, if it undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada or the lives or the security of the people of Canada . . . .
Then there are nine subclauses. Subclause (d) mentions "terrorism" and subclause (f) says "interference with critical infrastructure."
When I read those two very simple clauses, I started to worry, because when you talk about sovereignty and you consider Aboriginal people, right away you have a conflict. We all know there is Crown land that belongs to the Government of Canada, and we also have treaty talks and court battles about First Nations traditional territory. So we have sovereignty of the First Nations and we have the sovereignty of Canada, which means there has been and there likely will continue to be some conflict.
We've heard talk about the balance in this bill between the safety and security of all Canadians from terrorist attacks and terrorist threats. We all want to be safe and secure, but we also must balance it, we've heard, with the individual Charter rights of all Canadians across Canada.
But we haven't really talked about the fact that Aboriginal peoples have section 35 rights under the Constitution, which says that they have existing Aboriginal and treaty rights. The Aboriginal people of Canada are fearful, and I think that fear is justified, that this bill will infringe upon Aboriginal rights.
Senators Mitchell and Jaffer in their speeches mentioned pipelines in B.C., and pipelines can be considered to be critical infrastructure. We all know from watching the news that a lot of Aboriginal people are involved in protests regarding the building of things like the Northern Gateway Pipeline.
The National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations has said he is worried about the unjust labelling of First Nations activists as terrorists. He has said that Bill C-51 could potentially be used to further oppress defence of Aboriginal rights and titles.
So our national leader has said that he is worried about their being oppression of treaty rights.
The Mohawk Council of Kahnawake has also sent a letter to the Prime Minister expressing their concern about Aboriginal rights. Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs believes that Bill C-51 directly violates the ability of indigenous peoples to exercise, assert and defend their constitutionally protected and judicially recognized indigenous title and rights to their respective territories.
We have to remember that in June 2014, just last year, there was a Supreme Court decision with regard to the Tsilhqot'in Nation in B.C. that recognized the traditional territory of the Tsilhqot'in people. That was a landmark decision.
So there is concern among Aboriginal peoples in Canada about Bill C-51, but what I'm going to go into next will show why their worries are founded. If we look at what's gone on so far, we've already found out that the RCMP and CSIS routinely monitor indigenous activists and protests; they're already being monitored by the RCMP and CSIS, so this is somewhat worrisome.
Dr. Pamela Palmater, Chair in Indigenous Governance at Toronto's Ryerson University, has said that the federal government's omnibus security bill, Bill C-51, would hand extremists what they want by shackling civil liberties and that it would make all of us suspects. I think what she means by "all of us" is all indigenous peoples.
She is concerned, and she is a very unique individual in that she has PhD qualifications in law. She says that neither the new disruptive powers nor the information sharing provisions apply to lawful advocacy, protest and dissent, but some critics say these elements can be used against Aboriginal and environmental activists who protest outside the letter of the law. This is important to mention, because the letter of the law can be open to interpretation.
If your interpretation is such that you are biased in seeing Aboriginal protesters as being violent, then you will consider it to be violent when it really isn't. Dr. Palmater told the committee in the other place that she herself is routinely tracked by federal agencies that keep tabs on her involvement in Aboriginal issues.
As I mentioned before, her arguments were echoed by Grand Chief Stewart Phillip of the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs. He has called for the withdrawal of the bill and has accused the Harper government of retooling its policy-making efforts to foster natural resource extraction.
Now I will talk a bit about Grand Chief Stewart Phillip in B.C. An internal RCMP report was released that Chief Phillip had a chance to look at. He was quite astounded to find out what was in this report, which was released just a little over a year ago, in January 2014. It's entitled Criminal Threats to the Canadian Petroleum Industry, and it's stamped "PROTECTED A / / CANADIAN EYES ONLY."
As he read through it, he was astounded to discover what this report says, and what it says is:
Aside from New Brunswick, the most urgent anti-petroleum threat of violent criminal activity is in Northern British Columbia where there is a coalition of like-minded violent extremists who are planning criminal actions to prevent the construction of the pipeline.
Remember, this is an internal report from the RCMP for Canadian eyes only. But it was obtained by the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network by an access-to-information request. The January 2014 report said that the ". . . extremists advocate the use of arson, firearms, and improvised explosive devices." And some factions ". . . have aligned themselves with violent aboriginal extremists." That's what it said in the report.
Now, Chief Phillip from the Union of British Columbia Indian Chiefs was astounded to hear this because he says he has never met anyone prepared to engage in criminal activity since his association with the B.C. environmental movement which began in the 1970s. He says:
"Every day when you turn on the television, you witness insane acts on the part of disturbed people . . . . But to suggest there's a very well-organized jihadist-style network out there that's a threat to the Canadian public — in my experience this is absolutely not the case. I hate to say this, but this is Canada. Excuse me?
The Aboriginal Peoples Television Network also looked at internal reports from the RCMP with regard to their surveillance of the Idle No More group. As you may know, the Idle No More protests were started in Saskatchewan by four Saskatchewan women, and they have been surveilled by the RCMP.
The federal Aboriginal Affairs Department has shared information with Canada's spies and other federal law enforcement agencies to foster surveillance of the Idle No More movement, and that's what these internal government documents show. These documents reveal how easily Canadian authorities assume the possibility of violence when it comes to monitoring First Nation demonstrators. So First Nation demonstrators are seen in a light that they are far more violent than they are in reality.
The Public Safety documents stem from surveillance activities around the Idle No More movement during December 2012 and January 2013. These documents show that Aboriginal Affairs not only shared and received protest information from the Canadian Security Intelligence Agency on protests, but it also supplied details about a meeting between government officials and First Nation leaders. The information was passed on to the Integrated Terrorism Assessment Centre, ITAC, which includes CSIS and police services across the country.
It is quite phenomenal to think these documents from the RCMP were already shared with the integrated terrorism assessment unit two years ago.
While there were no indicators of potential violence specifically for the Ottawa-based action, and you may recall there were protests here in Ottawa about two years ago, security officials at Public Safety were convinced that a possibility of violence existed because some youth in their social media mentioned the 1990 Oka Crisis in their online discussions. According to an Ottawa-based human rights lawyer, Paul Champ, he said that the leap that the security officials made in assuming potential violence, based on a reference to Oka, shows how little these people understood First Nations people. Mr. Champ says:
Obviously the Oka protest is a seminal moment for First Nation people across the country in terms of an assertion of rights Vis-a-vis the government. It doesn't necessarily imply violence . . . . It shows how deeply they misunderstand First Nation people and the significance they attach to the Oka protest.
To reiterate, Mr. Champ said the documents show how easy it is for security personnel to assume the threat of violence when it comes to Aboriginal protesters. I think that concern has been expressed. Given the lack of clear definitions within the bill of what is terrorism and what are protests, I think it is more than likely that Aboriginal people could easily fall under the net of being labelled terrorists, particularly when it comes to protests involved in things like pipelines which could be considered critical infrastructure.
Interestingly, Cindy Blackstock, a child welfare advocate who has a court case against the federal government right now, was monitored by the RCMP. They were told to stop and give her the files they had on here.
The Chief of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug, which is a remote northern Ontario First Nations that our Aboriginal people committee actually visited, found out that he had been monitored by the RCMP because his community is involved in mining, and they were against the mining activity around their traditional territory.
There is significant concern. If you go back to clause 2 of the bill, all of the activities are listed at the bottom. It says:
For greater certainty it does not include advocacy, protest, dissent and artistic expression.
The word "protest" is not defined. Protest is often a way by which all Canadians and Aboriginal people try to assert their rights and try to convince people that their rights need to be recognized. It's good they have that there, but it's not very well defined.
If you were concerned — and Aboriginal people are concerned — about an erosion of their constitutionally protected rights, the only way to alleviate that would be to put in there, "For greater certainty, nothing in this Act could be construed so as to abrogate or derogate from section 35 constitutionally protected existing Aboriginal and treaty rights." That might be a way that Aboriginal people could feel that their rights were being protected and not being captured by this bill.
Could I have five more minutes, please?
The Hon. the Speaker: Will honourable senators grant five more minutes?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Dyck: Thank you.
I would suggest that at the committee there be witnesses from the Aboriginal community, such as National Chief Perry Bellegarde, who are concerned about this and that there be a discussion to look at whether or not something like the insertion of a protection of constitutionally protected Aboriginal rights might be something that would allay their concerns so they don't feel that this bill will capture them as well.
Unless that provision is put in, I don't support the bill. There are many other reasons that other senators have brought up that are major concerns, so at this point I can't see myself supporting it.