Dear CCLA supporters,
This month, we launch “That’s not Fair!”, our educational animated series of videos, games and lessons plans designed to instill good democratic habits in children from 7 to 11 years old . Drawing on the experience of our education Director, Danielle Mclaughlin, who for the past 15 years has worked to develop a unique approach to teaching critical thinking and democratic literacy in the schools, “That’s not Fair!” is fun, engaging but also dead serious as we watch Mayor Moe using various stratagems to get his way. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental…
We are also happy to launch Artists for Civil Liberties! Artists of all stripes, please join.
I also invite you to read on the long-awaited accountability bill for the RCMP. In CCLA’s view, the bill is a step in the right direction but fails to fully implement the recommendations of the various public inquiries commissions, and we ask why.
Nathalie Des Rosiers
In this issue:
- That’s Not Fair!
- Courts release rulings on privacy in the digital age
- TD Fellowship – Nish City, a project on aboriginal rights
- CCLA to federal parliamentary committee: strengthen the RCMP oversight bill
- Social Cost of National Security Conference – summary and video of keynote address
- Canadian Artists for Civil Liberties
- RightsWatch 2012 – summary
The Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust is pleased to present:
That’s Not Fair!
An animated series of videos, online games, and lesson plans to introduce children ages 7-11 to critical thinking and the habits of democracy.
The Canadian Civil Liberties Education Trust (CCLET) has developed an animated series designed to introduce young members of our society to critical thinking. The video series – based on the adventures of Mayor Moe and The City Councillors – invites viewers to consider the effects of rules and laws: why were they put in place? Do they achieve their stated objectives? Do they have any side-effects or unintended consequences?
Each episode explores a different theme related to fundamental freedoms and civil liberties – in a fun, age-appropriate and thoughtful way. Episodes focus on such issues as freedom of the press, the right to equality, and freedom of association. It’s never too early to start talking about rights and freedoms in democracy!
On the brand new website – www.thatsnotfair.ca – you will find:
- Two new “That’s Not Fair!” episodes – Mayor Moe’s Mess and Mayor Moe and the Lost Chain
- Online games
- Lesson plans that support the elementary curriculum for grades 2 to 5
We will be releasing a new episode every few weeks between now and the end of the year – so don’t forget to keep checking back to catch new adventures from The City!
During the course of the last year, many critical judicial decisions were issued dealing with our privacy rights. They dealt with various questions surrounding privacy:
- If you are arrested, should police be able to search through the cell phone you are carrying without a warrant?
- Does the clicking “ I Agree” at the bottom of a long mumbo jumbo contractual language really mean that you surrendered all your privacy rights?
- Can law enforcement forces unmask the name and address associated with an anonymous internet comment without first getting a warrant?
- Are text messages similar to phone conversations? Should they be subject to the same privacy protection?
- Can employers consent to police searches of their employees’ computers?
CCLA was engaged in all of these battles to protect privacy rights. We are happy to report that, with a few exceptions, courts continue to insist that : that constitutional privacy protections remain essential in the digital age.
On September 19th the Supreme Court released its decision in R. v. Cole, strongly affirming that the constitution does extend to protect employees’ privacy rights at work, and rejecting the government’s assertion that an employer’s consent is all that is necessary for the police to access an employee’s private, personal information. You can read CCLA’s full take on the judgment here, and a detailed description of the implications of the judgment for employees, employers and the police here. Earlier, in another win for privacy, the Supreme Court ruled that the Criminal Code’s warrantless wiretapping regime was unconstitutional . Although the judgment didn’t go quite as far as the CCLA had advocated, the Court’s ruling that notice and judicial oversight are key constitutional considerations makes the decision a touchstone in constitutional privacy jurisprudence.
Several key court decisions are still pending. R. v. Telus will examine the situations in which the wiretap provisions extend to protect intercepted text messages – you can read more about CCLA’s position and watch the webcast of our counsel, Wendy Matheson, arguing at the Supreme Court. Also look out for CCLA’s upcoming intervention in CEP Local 30 v. Irving Pulp and Paper, another key case on privacy in the workplace.
And finally, we would be remiss not to mention the two Court of Appeal decisions – one concerning warrantless access to IP addresses and a second about police non-conviction records – that were more disappointing. CCLA will continue to advocate in these areas in Parliament and in the courts.
Consider this scenario: You are a 14 year old attending a high school that is two hours away from your home community. You have to stay with a host family in the city. You are not able to meet the host family before you move in and when you arrive, you are surprised to discover that they are not welcoming. The host family is compensated for providing you living space and that appears to be their only motivation. You try several other homes but cannot find one where you feel comfortable. What do you do?
This story describes a young Aboriginal women’s experience of her high school education. With no high school near home, she had to move. The young woman is a participant in CCLA’s latest initiative, Nish City. The project centers on a series of online videos, featuring profiles that explore the Aboriginal community’s work fighting injustice in Canadian cities, including the lack of adequate educational facilities for Aboriginal students.
Injustice is a daily experience for many Aboriginal people. It manifests overtly in policy, including the underfunding of basic services in First Nations communities relative to non-Aboriginal communities. While many non-Aboriginal people are aware of Canada’s colonial origins, they often fail to recognize contemporary forms of discrimination and prejudice against Aboriginal peoples.
Nish City aims to address that gap and highlight the work of Aboriginal peoples to affirm their rights. Look for the project on CCLA’s website in January 2013.
This past Wednesday, parliamentarians sat down to do a line-by-line reading of Bill C-42, legislation that is aimed at improving the RCMP oversight and accountability regime. We certainly hope they take their deliberations seriously. Although the bill is a definitive step in the right direction (its preamble talks about how civilian review and accountability is important to maintaining public confidence in policing, and therefore to an effective national police force), it still has a long way to go. There are gaping holes in the Commission’s ability to access RCMP information, unnecessary restrictions on public complaints and self-initiated reviews, lesser oversight for US officers authorized to operate on Canadian soil and there remains the possibility that the RCMP could investigate itself in cases of serious injury or death.
Perhaps most concerning is the fact that RCMP oversight was the subject of a very detailed, comprehensive and expensive public inquiry report just a few years ago, after Maher Arar was tortured as a result of sloppy RCMP information-sharing. The recommendations of the public inquiry into the Arar affair have been largely ignored. In our detailed brief we outline numerous concrete changes that can be made to move the proposed oversight regime closer to the ideal of robust civilian oversight. We can only hope that the Committee is listening. The public, and the police, deserve no less.
Read a summary of CCLA’s recommendations and get a link to the full detailed brief here.
On Friday, October 19th, 2012, nearly 100 attendees gathered at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law for a one-day symposium entitled “The Social Cost of National Security: Assessing the Impact of Global Counter-Terror Initiatives on Canadian Society”. The conference was a partnership between the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Canadian Arab Institute — for who this was their inaugural event — and was hosted by the International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto.
The keynote address was given by the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Mr. Ben Emmerson, Q.C. The Special Rapporteur emphasized the importance of observing international human rights standards in the implementation of counter-terrorism measures. Ensuring redress for victims of terrorism is important, however protecting the rights of victims does not legitimize violating the rights of others, and in fact only serves to increase the likelihood of retaliation and violence. The protection of the rule of law and human rights are crucial methods in challenging the spread of terrorism.
Watch Mr. Emmerson’s keynote address here
Follow a live blog of the conference proceedings here
Check out photos from the event here
On December 1st, 2012 Canadian Artists for Civil Liberties will be coming together for a special evening of performances in celebration of fundamental freedoms and human rights, at Lee’s Palace in Toronto starting at 9pm. It will feature musical performances by Ohbijou, Maloo (Maylee Todd solo), and Minotaurs; a talk by Judy Rebick, a reading by poet George Elliott Clarke; spoken word performance by Dwayne Morgan and burlesque performance by Great Canadian Burlesque. The evening will be MC’d by CBC Music’s Vish Khanna.
Canadian Artists for Civil Liberties is an initiative of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and musician Nathan Lawr to help raise public awareness about the philosophy, mandate and goals of CCLA. Musicians, painters, dancers, filmmakers, and other artists are invited to sign on to this project by taking the Canadian Artists for Civil liberties pledge and offering their names to a list in support of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association.
Now in its 4th year, the annual national RightsWatch conference was held in Montreal, Quebec, on October 12-13th 2012. This year, the conference was co-hosted by the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Centre for Human Rights and Legal Pluralism at McGill’s Faculty of Law.
This year’s conference was entitled Civil Liberties: People, Power and Protest and featured a wide range of national and international speakers who were invited to share their perspectives on numerous facets of this theme.
Check out the RightsWatch blog here!