Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Will the Government Use C-51, Anti-Terrorism Legislation, to Track Canadian University Students with Outstanding Loans?

Ottawa has instructed the Canadian Revenue Agency (CRA) to be more aggressive in collecting outstanding student loans.   According to the Globe and Mail:

The Government annually has to write off some of the $16 billion owing in student loans for a number of reasons:  a debtor may file for bankruptcy, the debt passes a six-year legal limit on collection, or the debtor can’t be found.  (B2, 31 Aug 2015)
For more detail on how the government has disallowed University graduates from declaring bankruptcy and extended the 6-year limit to 15 years, see my earlier post  When Should You Repay Your Student Loan? How about . . . Never!  However, the real cause (“90% of cases”) of non-payment is that CRA has lost track of student borrowers because “the CRA wasn’t allowed to ask other departments for help because of privacy laws” (B2, 31 Aug 2015).

What the Globe article doesn’t mention is the possibility of using C-51, anti-terrorism legislation, to solve the problem.  In case you have forgotten, the official title of the legislation is the “Security of Canada Information Sharing Act” and the purpose of the Act is 

TO ENCOURAGE AND FACILITATE INFORMATION SHARING BETWEEN GOVERNMENT OF CANADA INSTITUTIONS IN ORDER TO PROTECT CANADA AGAINST ACTIVITIES THAT UNDERMINE THE SECURITY OF CANADA

You might not think of a Canadian University grad with a student loan as a terrorist, but that’s because you have forgotten how the Conservative Government has used C-51 to re-define terrorism.  Here, unabridged, is how C-51, which is now law, defines terrorism:

The following definitions apply in this Act.Definitions“activity that undermines the security of Canada” means any activity, including any of the following activities, if it undermines the sovereignty, security or territorial integrity of Canada or the lives or the security of the people of Canada:interference with the capability of the Government of Canada in relation to intelligence, defence, border operations, public safety, the administration of justice, diplomatic or consular relations, or the economic or financial stability of Canada;
With students currently owing $16 billion in loans, and a good chunk of them refusing to pay up (28% in 2004, 13% in 2014), guess what!  They are potentially interfering with “the economic or financial stability of Canada” and therefore qualify as terrorists under C-51.



Both the Conservative and Liberal Parties are in favour of C-51, only the NDP has promised to repeal this legislation.


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