Elections are one of the hallmarks of democracy, and they represent one of the few instances when citizens have the opportunity to make their voices heard and to have a real say in the major decisions that will affect our lives and the future of our country. Voting is a fundamental right that we cannot take for granted. The upcoming federal election is your chance to participate in and improve our democracy. Which issues matter most to you? How you will you ensure those issues get on the national agenda? Exercising your right to vote is an important first step in becoming an active participant in Canadian democracy and in ensuring that our rights and freedoms are defended and promoted. Through this special section, CCLA is bringing you a civil liberties perspective on important issues. We have an op-ed for each issue, outlining our general position and inviting you to reflect on some particular areas of concern. You’ll also find links and resources to relevant CCLA activities, allowing you to delve deeper into the topic. Finally, we’ve developed sample questions for each issue. We invite you to bring these questions to townhall meetings and other public fora where you are able to ask your candidates questions, and raise the civil liberties perspective. Comments? Questions? Suggestions? Send us an email: email@example.com
- Open Government & Freedom of Information
- The Need for a G20 Inquiry
- Anti-Terrorism Laws Must Uphold Canadian Values
- U.S.- Canada Security Perimeter
- Mandatory Minimum Sentences
- Immigration Policy: Asylum seekers
As we prepare to exercise our essential democratic right to vote on May 2, it is worth thinking about what it means to live in a democracy. It may mean many things to many people, but one thing is clear – democracy is seriously threatened when information is withheld from the people. The government lost Parliament’s confidence due to its unwillingness to share information about the cost of its proposals. In some ways, the government’s refusal to provide this information showed not only contempt for Parliament, but ironically, a lack of confidence in Parliament’s ability (and the ability of the Canadian people) to handle that information. Click here to read more
In the past year, Canada’s streets have been home to a wide variety of public protests and demonstrations. From the Vancouver Olympics to the Toronto G20, from Pride parades to poverty protests to Falun Gong demonstrations, many Canadians have taken to the streets in an effort to have their voices heard on the issues that matter most to them. Protests and demonstrations are valid and important means of political expression, and Canadians are not doing a good enough job in jealously guarding our basic rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association. Click here to read more
- CCLA’s Submissions to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Access to Information, Privacy and Ethics Re: Open Government
- Read about CCLA’s intervention before the Supreme Court concerning the federal Access to Information Act
Sample questions for candidates
- What is your party’s strategy for increasing government openness and transparency? Can you list your top three priorities when it comes to increasing government openness and how you would go about implementing those priorities?
- Will your party commit to substantial amendment of the Access to Information Act so that Canadians have effective and efficient access to information about the workings of their government?
- Currently, Cabinet confidences are completely excluded from the Access to Information Act, which means government institutions can refuse disclosure on the basis that something is a Cabinet confidence, and there is no independent review of whether that claim is well-founded. Would you amend the Act so that refusals to produce this information could be subject to review by the Information Commissioner?
- How would you strengthen the Offices of the Information Commissioner and the Integrity Commissioner?
Elections are important, but they are not the only way to exercise democratic rights. Between trips to the ballot box, citizens participate in democratic life in a variety of ways, including expressing their views on the social and political issues they believe in most. This expressive activity is the bedrock of a healthy democracy and a frequent agent of social change. It helps hold governments accountable to the people and ensures that the society we want is the one that we get. When thousands of peaceful protesters sought to express their views during last summer’s G20 Summit in Toronto, the state’s response demonstrated a significant lack of regard for expressive rights. While the vandalism that occurred during the summit was undoubtedly condemnable, it did not give police carte blanche to perform illegal searches, violently disperse peaceful protests, or arrest more than 1,100 people. Click here to read more
- CCLA’s work on the G20
- Take Action on the G20
- CCLA/NUPGE G20 report, “Breach of the Peace” (PDF)
- CCLA/NUPGE G20 public hearings – audio
Sample question for candidates
- Your party has called for a public inquiry in the to G20. Why do you think this is necessary?
- What do you think are the most important issues for a public inquiry into the G20 to examine?
Canada’s anti-terrorism legislation is not a partisan issue. Laws were first introduced by the Liberals in 2001, and after they expired in 2007, the Conservatives in 2010 introduced a bill seeking to renew them. Although that bill died when the election was called, the issue remains. Canadians must ask themselves: are these provisions necessary for Canada to effectively fight terrorism? Or do they create exceptional powers that seem “tough on terror” — but in practice, actually impede prosecution and conviction? And what about the potential harm to our constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties? Click here to read more.
Sample questions for candidates
- Where do you stand on the issue of renewing anti-terrorism provisions relating to investigative hearings, preventive detention, and recognizance with conditions?
- What about the fact that these provisions may actually impede the ability of law enforcement to conduct lawful surveillance and evidence gathering, and in turn, prosecution and conviction?
- Do you think these provision dilute or weaken civil liberties guaranteed in our Charter?
- Human rights advocates and courts in other jurisdictions have been critical of similar provisions, which have been in force and created problems in those jurisdictions. Knowing of this experience, why would Canada want to re-introduce these provisions now?
One issue that hasn’t been subject of much election discussion, but will certainly impact the lives of Canadians, is the proposed Canada-U.S. security perimeter. On Feb. 4, Canada and the U.S. issued a declaration committing both countries to create a North American Security Perimeter. Borders are to be “open” to legitimate travellers and trade, and “closed” to criminals and “terrorist elements.” Following the terrorist attacks of Sept, 11, 2001, the U.S. heightened its border security, resulting in greater costs for Canadian manufacturers. The security perimeter is supposed to create economic gains by removing regulatory barriers, harmonizing rules, and reducing border congestion for manufacturers. Click here to read more
- CCLA to submit civil liberties concerns regarding North American security perimeter
- A Canada-U.S. security perimeter?
Sample questions for candidates
- How do you intend to ensure that the Canadian public has a meaningful say in discussions regarding the establishment of the North American Security Perimeter?
- Since 9/11, the U.S. has been steadily corroding civil liberties in their effort to bring security to their country, and many Canadians are concerned that an American logic and style will prevail in the implementation of the North American Security Perimeter. Can we count on your government to ensure that civil liberties and fundamental freedoms are upheld in all aspects of the implementation?
- How do you plan to address concerns that cross-border, integrated law enforcement with American partners could lead to violations of civil liberties? For example, will our right to privacy be protected?
- How about due process rights – will your government ensure that there are adequate recourse mechanisms for individuals?
Trafficking of drugs creates many problems for society. These are serious problems that affect many Canadians and we should encourage our governments to solve them. However, this ought not to include mandatory minimum sentences. Click here to read more.
- CCLA Continues to Fight Against Mandatory Minimum Sentences
- CCLA Intervenes to Challenge Mandatory Minimum Sentence
- Supreme Court holds that mandatory minimums are not absolute when rights have been violated
- CCLA intervenes to support sentence reductions when rights have been violated
- CCLA opposes mandatory minimum sentences for drug crimes
- View CCLA’s factum in R. v. Latimer
Last summer, when a boat accosted in British Columbia with a large group of Tamil people allegedly fleeing persecution, accusations of “jumping the queue” and of “terrorists coming to shore” flared. These accusations may be true, they may be false, we just do not know until the evidence is assessed and the issue arises as to how a democratic society must deal with the mass arrivals of people claiming refugee status. What is the right thing to do? Click here to read more
As Canadians, many of us feel lucky. Lucky to live with a great deal of peace, security, and freedom. Lucky that we can wear and wave the maple leaf, attach it to our luggage – and have it match our passports. The pride so many of us take in this symbol is directly related to our pride in Canada, as we are perceived around the world as a country of tolerance, freedom, and human rights. Those of us who live here know that our national home is not perfect, but also know this to be a culture of compassion, gentleness, and caring for others (through our health and education systems, as well as some of our international endeavours). My first sighting of a maple leaf occurred, and my Canadianness began, in 1978 when my family arrived in this country. For many Canadians, it was their parents, grandparents, or forebears who arrived: some travelling in first class, others in far less luxurious conditions; some in recent memory, others several centuries ago. But that’s all history. Click here to read more