Re: @Trevor Pott
So far as I understand, the judges who review national security issues have an extremely limited mandate, and their decisions can be challenged in the Supreme Court. (Though the hearing will be sealed until the court makes a decision.) The laws they implement aren't secret, nor are the legal interpretations they arrive at. What is kept secret (for obvious reasons) are the details of cases involving national security.
What should be pointed out is that these judges don't exist simply to rubber stamp requests for spying. They handle all cases involving national security. In any rational world, it makes perfect sense for such a panel of judges to exist, so long as there exist concepts such as "national security."
I've never had an issue with the concept of a court that handles secret things. I've had all sorts of issues with how those courts are run, specifically, the ability to challenge decisions and the ability to even gain access to the results of past judgements. I.E. are the people expected to be held to the standards of what amount to secret laws?
There are lawyers in this country with security clearance. Even if their clients cannot be party to a a suit, they can be represented appropriately.
Have the conservatives done a shitload of damage to our rights and freedoms since taking over? Yes...but the difference between Canada and the US is that we can (and do!) challenge this crap in court...and win. The conservatives try to give sweeping powers to CESC and CSIS; the Supreme Court kills the laws on constitutional grounds and then makes the government go back to the drawing board and come up with something that's actually constitutional. It doesn't take decades here; it takes only a few years.
More to the point, to my knowledge there is no concept of "you aren't able to sue the government for that because you aren't clear to see the information about whether or not you have standing." If you believe there's something untowards going on, you can get a lawyer with clearance and the trial can be held, even if you cannot yourself participate. (Bizzare, but there it is.)
And if the government loses one of those...it isn't covered up. If the government does something unconstitutional then it must be declassified. At least, such is the theory. We are currently seeing how this will all play out in practice.
I agree wholeheartedly that governments will be governments, but the separation of powers still exists here in Canada, despite the PMO trying to eliminate it. The government can be as corrupt as it wants, the court will slap them down and the mounties will still haul their asses off to jail one asshole at a time.
Ultimately, there's the difference. I don't believe for a second in the American courts. I don't believe for a second that they will stand up for your rights or freedoms. Your government has gotten away with obliterating the fourth amendment of your constitution without a fight and they are working damn hard at obliterating the first.
My government would like to do the same thing. Our courts repeatedly deny them the option. For now, at least, there's the gap: we are still nominally in control of our government.
It's getting worse. Day by day. Conservative judicial appointment by conservative judicial appointment. But we're a long way from as corrupt as America. A long way.