Greens unveil their amendments to ‘dangerous’ Bill C-51

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Greens unveil their amendments to ‘dangerous’ Bill C-51

Green Party leader Elizabeth May and fellow MP Bruce Hyer will table 60 amendments to the government’s controversial anti-terror bill, which will be voted on when the House of Commons national security committee goes through clause-by-clause consideration of the legislation Tuesday.

May and Hyer have both been outspoken against Bill C-51 and on Monday morning, one day before possible amendments from the Harper government are tabled, the party leader said that even if their amendments aren’t adopted, there’s still some time for critics to put pressure on MPs to ultimately vote against the bill so that it does not become law.

Conservatives amendments

Last week news broke the government will be making minor amendments to the bill. The first amendment deals with the measure that says “lawful protest” would not be monitored by Canada’s spy agency CSIS. But many have worried that protests or civil disobedience of any sort could fall under CSIS jurisdiction.

The amendment will remove “lawful” from the wording of the bill and attempt to limit what’s considered terror activity.

Another proposed amendment will make clear that, with the new powers afforded to CSIS, that agents cannot arrest people — although this was not a specific power mentioned in the legislation. The government amendments will also limit Canada’s public safety minister’s ability to direct what airlines do to prevent terror activities.

“This is bad legislation,” May said at a press conference Monday where the MPs outlined their amendments, “So when Stephen Harper decides that any product of PMO is anything less than perfection, that’s progress. But do those amendments satisfy my concerns that this is dangerous legislation? No.”

Green proposals

The Green party amendments are lengthy with some based on witness testimony at committee. Other amendments piggyback off of Liberal concerns, such as a Liberal MPs private member’s bill to establish parliamentary oversight of spy agency Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC).

May noted she’s been told any amendments put forward that recommend parliamentary oversight for spy agencies will be considered outside the scope of the legislation.

Both opposition New Democrats and the Liberal party unveiled their own preferred amendments last week — each included the creation of some form of parliamentary oversight for Canada’s spy agencies.

Despite her concerns about the bill — May called it legislation that’s “bad drafting, vague wording, sloppy work that’s dangerous” — she also hopes the bill can be defeated. There’s still time to make that happen, she suggested.

The bill will get clause-by-clause consideration Tuesday and Wednesday, but May said it’s unlikely the bill will get to a third reading by the time Parliament takes a two week recess after Easter.  

The Liberals have said they’ll vote in favour of Bill C-51 with Conservatives MPs expected to vote in line with the government.

However, May said Conservatives who aren’t happy with the bill aren’t going to “put themselves out on a limb and vote against a bill if they know the Liberals are voting for it.”

“We have time to continue the pressure,” May continued. “Because maybe we can get some Liberals to switch their vote and then…Conservative MPs, I believe, will vote with us to stop this.”