With one year officially behind the Liberal government of Justin Trudeau some pundits have commented that 2017 will be a critical year for the government as big decisions on a number of issues will have to be made. If the last year is any indication of where this government is headed, don’t expect anything too definitive on a number of files. Take Bill- C51 and the promises of a renewed intelligence oversight system, where’s the progress on that file? Punted to the general public for discussions and input (read – stalling?) of new surveillance powers and an ill-thought out plan of basically having the government oversee government control of intelligence. Trudeau promised to pull out the CF-18s from bombing in Iraq and did so – roughly two weeks before the mission would end anyway and then sent more of Canada’s troops to the area. What about reforming the Access to Information Act? Nothing here, and as my very public battle for the PICNIC wiretapping docs has shown, Canada lags far behind on citizen access to information. Even on things the government tries to pat itself on the back about like the inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women, yes there will be a commission, but no they won’t investigate past cases, i.e. one of the main reasons people wanted a commission.
Trudeau huffed and puffed during the campaign about Harper’s deportation and immigration law changes claiming a “Canadian is a Canadian is a Canadian” because the Harper government’s Bill C-24 permitted citizenship to be revoked for terrorism offenses. The Liberals promised to undo this injustice, and they did, except they used one of the other powers that bill introduced into law which was to revoke citizenship for misrepresentation without holding a legal hearing. Not only did Trudeau’s government use it, in the first 10 months of his tenure as PM, it was used 184 times with 90 per cent losing their citizenship. This figure comes close to matching the total number of decisions for misrepresentation since 1988! These kinds of actions hearken back to the 1930s when Immigration Ministers wielded so much power over the lives of prospective deportees and where the governments of the era used charges of misrepresentation and fraud to deport people for other reasons like political ones. Is this where we’re headed? So what can we expect in 2017? Not much, I think, and a further mastery of saying two different things at the same time. One can hope for real change, but if the past is any indication, I’d keep hoping.