Sunday, May 13, 2007

Conservatives: About To Attack Liberty ... Again

It seems that our brilliant lot in Ottawa are creating an American-styled "no-fly list".

Superficially, one might almost be sympathetic to having such a list. After all, we don't want some loon getting on a plane and hijacking it or blowing it out of the sky with a bomb, do we?

Hang on a second here. Just who's on this list, how did they get on it, and why? The government is talking about having an "office of reconsideration" to appeal to if they are denied boarding access to a flight.

There's two problems I have with this list. First, it is supremely abusable. With no transparency, no accountability, your name can land on this list for no real reason other than someone not liking the way that you looked at them one day, or perhaps you wrote something that a high government official decided looked suspicious (or didn't like).

The American "no-fly" list has been used to restrict the mobility of people for no real reason other than their name, or in some cases, no apparent reason at all. Is there an avenue of appeal? Only sort of. You have no access to the reasons that your name landed on that list. Instead, an arbitrary list exists with your name on it somewhere, and presto, suddenly you can't get on a plane.

I would assert that in light of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in Canada, as well as recent rulings on "Security Certificates, that Harper's latest little secretive list is in fact illegal in Canada.

The Charter provides for several key rights that are being unreasonably subjected to arbitrary restriction by the government:

1. The Charter specifically guarantees mobility rights to Canadians. In this context, I would argue that those rights are being arbitrarily abrogated on the supposition of a threat.

2. The Charter specifically guarantees specific legal rights with respect to being accused of an illegal (and therefore punishable) offense before the law. Among them, we are guaranteed due process, timely trial and others. Here, we have the government stepping in and abrogating those rights, going from suspicion to punishment without even so much as evidence coming into the mix. Essentially, they are making some faceless bureaucrat judge, jury and executioner with no process whatsoever.

You might argue that the Conservatives are just "protecting law abiding citizens", but I must respond to that argument as follows:

1) Where and when is the government obliged to notify someone that they are on the no-fly list? As far as I can see, notification happens when you are denied a boarding pass - which effectively exacts a monetary punishment as well as the denial of service immediately. In most cases, you will find the cost of the plane ticket forfeit.

2) There is no transparent process to review the list. It is held "hush-hush/secret", out of the eyes of the public.

3) The proposed "reconsideration" office does not give you any guarantee of a hearing that is fair and impartial. Nor does it appear that you would have access to the evidence or accusations that landed you on the list in the first place.

4) Since PMSH and crew are so fond of emulating all things American, I suspect that the process of getting your name off that list will be at least as ambiguous as it is in the United States. Meaning that your right to go somewhere in Canada is arbitrarily restricted without reasonable recourse.

In short, this is another Conservative attack upon Canadians, and like their amendments to criminal law, one that unreasonably breaches key aspects of the Canadian Constitution and the freedoms enshrined therein.

No comments: