Why I am not renewing my membership to Canadian Civil Liberties Association

I received an email reminder today from CCLA, telling me my membership is about to expire, and asking me to renew my membership.
I am copying below my reply. I would encourage other visitors to this website who share my views and membership in CCLA, to consider taking similar action, in hopes of kick-starting a so-far recalcitrant and potentially an important ally. And yes, I did write to CCLA about support in our Charter battle, many months ago and to no avail. I am tired of asking nicely; I think the iron-boot-in-the-butt approach is called for now.
The text of my email to CCLA follows:

I am choosing NOT to renew my membership this year.
Your first paragraph states that CCLA fights to protect and uphold the rights guaranteed by the Charter.
One of those rights under Section 15 is freedom from discrimination on the basis of national origin.
I, and several other people, have in the past year called to your attention the fact that the current Government of Canada signed an intergovernmental agreement with the United States to share with the US tax authorities financial account information on Canadian citizens and residents who are suspected by a Canadian financial institution of being a “US person” based on “indicia” such as an “unambiguous evidence of US place of birth.” This is in my view a violation of Section 15. That view is shared by constitutional lawyer Joe Arvay, who has filed a Statement of Claim against the government on behalf of two plaintiffs who were born in the US as dual citizens but have never since the age of five years resided in the US, have only resided in Canada the land of the birth of their parents, nor have ever made any claims on US citizenship, yet are adversely affected by this intergovernmental agreement.
I, and I believe others, have asked for CCLA to intervene, provide support, or at least help publicize this battle and the efforts to raise funds for the legal fees for the Charter challenge (see http://www.adcs-adsc.ca).
The legal fees for this lawsuit under the Charter have been crowd-funded, currently to the tune of $300,000. Fund raising is continuing to pay for the remaining $200,000 in legal retainer fees, due in $100,000 instalments in May and August. According to those organizing the fund-raising, all the funds have come in relatively small donations from “average” Canadians (including single parents and others of limited financial means). This is a genuinely grass-roots effort. No corporations, and no prominent and wealthy dual US-Canadian citizens have chipped in a cent, as far as I know.
As far as I am aware, CCLA has provided no support whatsoever to the plaintiffs, the lawsuit, or to Canadians who have been affected by this violation of their Charter rights.
Until I hear that CCLA has contributed in some significant way to the legal battle against this intergovernmental agreement, in support of the Charter rights of Canadian citizens and residents with “US indicia,” I will not be renewing my membership nor will I contribute to CCLA.
The precedent of handing over financial information or in any other way caving into the demands of a foreign government to treat differently from other Canadians, those Canadians whose ethnic or national origin is from that foreign government, potentially affects ALL naturalized Canadians and ALL Canadian residents with foreign origins who might still be considered citizens of the countries of their origin. Think Iran. Think North Korea. Think China. Think Saudi Arabia. Think any country you wish. The ramifications go well beyond Canada-US relations. This is utterly unacceptable behaviour on the part of our government, and a total sell-out of both our Charter and of Canada’s sovereignty over its own citizens and residents.
And no, for the record, I am not a “US person” and am not subject to the provisions of the intergovernmental agreement between Canada and the US with respect to FATCA (the US Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act). But I have close friends and relatives, all Canadian citizens, who are affected. And as someone with a non-Canadian national origin, a violation of the rights of ANY Canadian of ANY ethnic or national origin is potentially and ultimately a violation of my own rights as well, through the precedent that would be set if this Charter violation is allowed to stand.
I had hoped that CCLA would “get” these points. You don’t seem to have done so. I don’t want to hear from you again, until your position on this issue has materially changed or you can provide me evidence that my information about your lack of support in this matter is incorrect.
Until that time, I request that my email address be removed from all your mailing lists.

18 thoughts on “Why I am not renewing my membership to Canadian Civil Liberties Association

  1. Perhaps I should add here, as I didn’t in my email to CCLA (because it didn’t occur to me until now), that the $75 membership fee I might otherwise have sent to CCLA will be added instead to my next contribution to the ACDS fund. I think that would be a much better and more appropriate use of my $75.

  2. Thanks Schubert for taking such a strong stand with CCLA. I agree your $75 will be much better spent for our lawsuit.
    CCLA’s public silence on the FATCA IGA and the enabling act is hugely disappointing. Here is an e-mail I just sent to Abbby Deshman, CCLA Director of Public Safety.

    Hi Abby.
    The public silence of CCLA on FATCA IGA and enabling legislation has not gone unnoticed.
    Here is a post one person made at Maple Sandbox on why he is not renewing his membership and why he has asked to be removed from CCLA’s e-mail list.
    Will CCLA be making any statement or taking any action? It has been a year since the IGA was announced. It should be chilling to all Canadians and to CCLA that more than six months ago, the Canadian government passed a law overriding all Canadian laws on the demands of a foreign government. Yet there was no public effort by CCLA to speak up for Canadians, for the Charter or for Canada.
    It is distressing to many of us that CCLA has been so silent about this despite ongoing contact with you. I ask you to take a leadership role at CCLA on this soon.
    Canadians and friends around the world have raised over $300,000 towards a $500,000 fee to just get this to Federal Court. These funds have been raised mainly through small donors, including people who have been Canadian citizens for decades or for life sending Old Age Pension money.
    We hope CCLA will support our efforts to ensure all Canadians have their rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms upheld.
    Could you please advise what the position of CCLA is on FATCA? Could you also please advise what CCLA will do and when to challenge FATCA, the IGA and the enabling Act?

    1. Thanks for the supporting email, Lynne!
      Now of course CCLA will be able to connect their dots and tell who “Schubert” is, if they even care or notice, but at this stage of the game I couldn’t care less (plus Lynne and a fair number of email correspondents already know my true identity so I’m being rather facetious here).
      If I get any reply from CCLA I most certainly will post it here, as I’m sure will Lynne if she gets a reply.
      I also clicked on the “publish” to Twitter button that appeared when I generated this post, even though I never follow Twitter. So that should further publicize our now-public gripe with CCLA.
      Charter violations affect everyone. I certainly hope CCLA isn’t cherry-picking which minorities have Charter rights they fight for and which ones they don’t fight for. The way the Canadian government decided that Canadians of Eritrean origin shouldn’t be picked on by the Eritrean embassy and government the way Canadians of US origin are picked on by the US embassy and government. Very pathetic commentary on the so-called principles of our current government if they think it’s OK to fight back against a tiny country on the other side of the planet, but not against the elephant to our south when it goes rogue.
      I await with interest, though not bated breath, what CCLA will make of this.

  3. Stop presses — I just found in my inbox a reply from Abby Deshman at CCLA to my email, sent by Abby about 2.5 hours after I sent my email by reply to the CCLA robo-email re my membership renewal. I am encouraged by her reply. I attempted to post the reply and a couple of observations a few minutes ago, but I stupidly didn’t log in first so my reply presumably has gone into moderation awaiting posting (either that or somehow I lost it). I’ll repost the reply I got later this evening or some time tomorrow, if I don’t see my original reply by then. (I’ve contacted Lynne who has administrator privileges by email asking if she could check about the moderation; I don’t want to end up duplicating the post.)
    Anyway, CCLA says they are supportive and have been in direct contact with the ADCS team, of which I wasn’t aware. So I must withdraw my previous comments questioning their apparent (to me at the time) lack of support or involvement.
    More to follow one way or another …

  4. @Schubert: It is true that CCLA issued a notice about FATCA over two years ago.
    The bottom of that announcement gives a link to the CCLA letter that CCLA wrote while Canada was negotiating the IGA.
    Abby has had ongoing contact with me and with others. However, CCLA public silence since the IGA was announced remains disappointing and disconcerting especially in view of a law that overrides all Canadian laws for a foreign government.

  5. As promised, I am copying below the reply I received from CCLA yesterday, only a few hours after I sent my email. I will comment on this in a separate reply, momentarily.
    The following is the text of the reply I received:
    Thank you very much for email and taking the time to explain to us your concerns about FATCA and the implications of the recent legislation and inter-governmental agreement. I am a lawyer and director of the Public Safety Program with the CCLA; your recent response to the membership renewal notification was passed on to me so I could respond to your concerns.
    As you may know, this is an issue that we have spoken out on in the past, both at public forums, in advocacy letters, and in the press. You can see some of our past work and engagement on this issue on our website, at http://ccla.org/2012/12/04/ccla-registers-privacy-concerns-over-ongoing-canada-u-s-information-exchange-negotiations/. You might also be interested in listening to the panel we hosted at our 2014 Pathways2Privacy Symposium, which included a discussion on this topic. You can access an audio archive of that event at http://ccla.org/events/pathways2privacy/.
    We have been in touch with those who are directly involved in coordinating the litigation challenge. Although we do not generally engage in fundraising for specific legal causes, we did share the news regarding the filing of the legal challenge via social media upon request, are actively considering intervening in the pending litigation. The CCLA prioritizes its research and intervention decisions to match litigation deadlines, and there are numerous cases that have much earlier and more quickly moving deadlines than the FATCA litigation. While the organization is not able to get involved in every case that is brought to our attention, this is an issue we have spoken out on before, and that we are actively looking at for a possible intervention when the time comes.
    Thank you for supporting CCLA, and being an active and engaged member of our society on important issues. It is due to the financial and advocacy support of individuals such as yourself that our organization is able to continue its work.

  6. With reference to the email I received yesterday from CCLA, copied in full below:
    I have reviewed the link provided to me in the CCLA response, from 2012. Yes indeed CCLA did express publicly concerns about the privacy issues raised by FATCA. However, I do not find in that public statement specific reference to Section 15 of the Charter nor to the discrimination issues raised by the IGA and enabling legislation.
    I reviewed all email correspondence I received in 2014 from CCLA, throughout the year, always looking for some mention of FATCA, the IGA, and the Charter issues they raise. I do not recall seeing any reference in that email correspondence (the newsletters sent to all members) to these matters. It was in 2014 that the IGA was debated in the House of Commons and then passed by the government majority, over Opposition objections and proposed amendments, as we know.
    I share Lynne’s strong disappointment that CCLA remained silent on the issue during the 2014 discussions at the House of Commons Finance Committee concerning the IGA, and thereafter during the debate over Section 5 of the omnibus budget legislation which enacted the IGA.
    I am not sure what to make of the “contact” CCLA has made with the legal team for the court case. This was news to me. While it is mildly encouraging that CCLA may be considering an intervention in the court case at some appropriate future time, this is hardly a stirring defence of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Even a simple press release raising concerns under Section 15 would have been a useful and important support, particularly if it had come during the House of Commons deliberations. It still would be an important public support. I don’t see it.
    As I have indicated to CCLA and in this post, I am very concerned about the implications for all Canadians of any national origin, if the violation of Section 15 by the IGA is allowed to stand. I am outraged at my government’s submission to the bullying of any foreign government, most particularly the United States and particularly at this bicentennial of Canada’s forefathers’ much more forthright stand during the War of 1812, against American trampling on our sovereignty.
    I remain convinced that at this time, the ACDS legal fund has a stronger and more pressing claim on my limited financial contributions in defence of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, than does the CCLA.
    Having slept and reflected on the correspondence chain, I will be sending a cheque to ADCS in the amount of a one-year membership renewal to CCLA, in lieu of renewing that membership this year. As for future years, I will wait and see.

    1. @ Outraged,
      I don’t know the specifics of Federal Court, but generally a person or legal entity, not an original party to a case, who has an interest in a case’s outcome, can apply to intervene (basically become a party to a case and participate in it) in order to protect their rights or make a claim because they will be affected by the decision. That’s a legal interest (to have a right or a claim to something), not a person/entity who finds something “interesting” in the colloquial sense of the word. CCLA could possibly intervene because their mission is to protect human rights in Canada.

    2. @Outraged: Here is information from CCLA’s website about what Intervenor status means.


      What does it mean when CCLA gains “intervenor status” on a case?

      Intervenor status” is a legal term that means a court has made a formal decision to grant CCLA the right to participate in the proceedings before the court and provide comment on the legal issues being considered. The case may be between two private parties, or between the government and a private party. CCLA seeks to intervene and make legal arguments on civil liberties issues on behalf of all Canadians so that their rights are protected, preserved, and perhaps even expanded.



      Please note, CCLA has not said they will apply for intervenor status in our case. Abby told Schubert in the e-mail they are “actively considering” it.  We do not know if that will happen or not.

      Other organizations can also apply for intervernor status. For example, Canadian Bankers Association could apply for intervenor status to support the government.  To date, I have not seen anything indicating whether CBA will do that or not–but I personally think there is a strong likelihood CBA will.


  7. @ Schubert. ..
    In case you haven’t noticed, the CCLA and similar groups have been cherry picking for a long time. Ask Mark Steyn. Muslim groups sued him (I think at taxpayers’s expense) because they didn’t like what he wrote in a magazine article. In his case, I think it was some “human rights commission” who were the culprits. Nowhere in the article did he, as far as I could see, threaten anybody or advocate theft and violence. He defended himself successfully at his own expense and with help from others.
    Yet Obama’s government can come here and threaten Canadian residents and institutions with apparent impunity. The characterize us criminals and tax cheats, even those of us who have not lived in the United States for more than 6 decades. Apparently threatening us is OK. Apparently denigrating our character (are we not an “identifiable group???).
    Has CCLA said anything about that? Has any “human rights commission” said anything? If they have, I haven’t seen it. I don’t think they give a rat’s ass about the constitution unless it affects one of their pet groups.
    I wouldn’t give them the time of day.

  8. Thanks Lynne & Pacifica. So, the way I read this is, with CCLA standing back and letting someone else do their work for them, that if CCLA does intervene it’s likely to mean they think we have a good chance of winning 🙂

    1. All the more reason not to send them a membership fee or donation. I think it’s pathetic they haven’t once publicly said squat about the Section 15 issue, all they’ve been saying in public is about the privacy implications “which might be justified in some circumstances” or some such waffling. Zip about discrimination on the basis of national origin. I’m sorry I ever joined them in the past.

  9. I have maintained my membership in CCLA. We might want more from them, but at the same time we must acknowledge that they have to choose their battles. I don’t think it is self-evident that our case is more worthy of their fullest commitment than the egregious cases of injustice they take on, in many cases for people with no means of standing up for themselves.
    A couple of years ago, I took out membership in Canadians for Tax Fairness. I would not do so if I did not broadly agree with their values and objectives, but I did so in particular so as to attempt to advocate from within. There has been debate the organisation over this issue, but it seems to be dormant of late. They have not been our friends, but I think in principle that they ought to be, and I have argued it with Dennis Howlett. (That was some time ago. I maybe should try again.)

    1. I appreciate that CCLA has limited resources and time. However, there are ways of “intervening” that don’t necessarily cost legal fees or much in the way of staff time. Such as, for example, issuing a press release supporting in principle the Statement of Claim filed in court, or even “merely” raising serious concerns about the way the Harper government seems to use many parts of the Charter, not just Section 15, as toilet paper or a doormat.
      CCLA has taken similar such approaches on other issues, but not on this one. I remain convinced that, on my constrained pension income, ADCS is a better use of my $75 this year than is CCLA. Particularly since I can’t get a tax receipt from either organization. (I can and do get tax receipts from the Greens and NDP, and I have given to both, in larger sums than I otherwise would have been able, because of those tax receipts — money well spent in my opinion.)
      And there remains my concern that this violation of Section 15 has the potential to extend way beyond “US persons” in Canada, to any and all naturalized Canadians or persons born with dual nationality with some country other than the US. This a very fundamental principle, and CCLA is really dropping that ball. I am profoundly disappointed at this. And I have yet to receive any reply from CCLA to address that point, whether in agreement or in disagreement with a coherent argument to support the disagreement.
      Not the way to retain members or attract new ones, IMO. And I say this as a long-time supporter of and contributor to the NDP, the Green Party, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, and other progressive causes. At least the NDP and the Greens have been very clear on the FATCA/IGA issue. And no, I don’t seriously expect financial or legal support from either of those parties. The public statements and questions they raised, both in the House of Commons and on their websites, are very adequate forms of support. Which didn’t cost them financially as far as I know.

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