There’s an interesting article by Murray Brewster on the CBC News website; he reports that “Canada’s defence department does not feel bound by the Privacy Act when conducting overseas military intelligence operations involving Canadian citizens, a parliamentary committee has found … [and] … That revelation was disturbing enough for the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians to refer the findings of its special investigation to the federal attorney general for follow-up action.“
Here’s the problem: “The parliamentary committee, made up of MPs and senators, expressed concern last year about the lack of legislative accountability in military intelligence activities beyond something known as the “Crown prerogative.” That means that when the federal government decides to deploy the military, the intelligence branch has the legal authority to go about its business of protecting the military, both abroad and at home … [but, in this era the “enemy” is less clear and it may include Canadian citizens who have taken up arms in the service of some cause, like Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS, and against the Canadian Forces, overseas, and] … Some of those extremists were Canadian citizens who volunteered to fight for ISIS — and much of the current speculation about the targets military intelligence might have been monitoring revolves around those individuals.“
Mr Brewster says that “The committee found the defence department has “orally” shared its findings and tips on Canadian overseas with other security agencies in the country. The military denies sharing “actual or potential information about Canadians with international partners” — but insists that the Privacy Act would allow to do so, as long as the defence minister signs off on the action.“
Now, this is military intelligence, not the Canadian Security Intelligence Service or the Communications Security Establishment, both of which are already corralled by laws and regulations that aim to protect the rights of Canadians. We are talking about men and women in uniform, in a combat zone, They are trying to protect Canadian and allied soldiers from very real and imminent threats to life and limb. They are not faceless technicians locked away in secret rooms, breaking enemy codes, they are soldiers who are close to the battle area and who try to massage bits of information from maps, reports, intercepted radio signals and other sources into useful intelligence that will, in the next few hours or days, save Canadian and allied lives. Of necessity, today, this involves working with allies, some of whom work for regimes with little regard for human rights.
Now, the National Security and Intelligence Committee worries that they may be violating the privacy rights of Canadians who have elected leave Canada and fight for foreign agencies, sometimes against Canadians.
Can you believe it?
Well, yes I can and I share the committee’s concerns.
I agree with Justin Trudeau that “A Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian.” Canadians have certain rights and freedoms, relative, especially to their own government which ought never to be taken lightly. Until such time as they are properly tried and convicted for taking up arms against Canada or giving aid to Canada’s enemies ~ at which time native-born Canadians should be imprisoned, without the possibility of parole, for the rest of their natural lives and naturalized Canadians should be imprisoned for many years, stripped of their citizenship and then deported ~ then their rights must be protected.
The article says that the Canadian Forces argues that the Minister of National Defence may excuse them for violating the Privacy Act. They may be right. He may have that authority, but how is it applied in situations where people are dealing with current, minute-by-minute, life-and-death situations? Does an intelligence sergeant in Iraq call the MND’s office in Ottawa, where it is 3:00AM, and ask for permission to share some bits of information with other NATO team members because that might, coincidentally, violate the privacy rights of a Canadian fighting with Da’esh/ISIL/ISIS?
It is not simple. In fact, it is a very complex moral, legal, Constitutional and operational problem.
Canadians have rights. I believe that there should be some reasonable limitations on some of those rights. I also believe that Pierre Trudeau’s Charter of Rights was poorly drafted and our Supreme Court, when it had the chance, failed to demand that the Charter should be revised and tightened and, instead, chose to read it as (poorly) written. Convicted criminals, for example, should NOT have the full suite of civil rights until their sentence is served. Those convicted of fighting against Canada or supporting those who do should, if they are naturalized Canadians, be stripped of their citizenship … but only after they are properly tried and convicted. Until then they are Canadians, just like you and me and they are entitled to have ALL of their rights protected.
Thus I am not appalled, as some will be by, the notion that the Committee’s chair, Liberal MP David McGuinty has referred the matter to Justice Minister David Lametti for further consideration and action. Our rights are one of the reasons we send our men and women into harm’s way to fight and even to die. Those rights belong to each of us, equally and we cannot and should not be deprived of them without due process of law.